FAIRBORN — Wright State women’s tennis is nearing its win total from last season by posting a 14-9 record, with about a month still remaining in the regular season. Sophomore transfer Madison Riley has seemingly gone from unsung to one of the top competitors for the Raiders, in the last few weeks.
As a freshman, Riley played for Western Carolina. She was often at the bottom of the lineup, but that didn’t stop her from setting a school record in singles wins with 16. Her choice to join WSU was motivated by its proximity to her hometown of South Point, near the Southern Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia border.
This season, Riley has usually been paired with Carroll High School grad Jillian Milano in doubles. The duo had a shaky start to the season, but a streak of recent victories has brought their record all the way up to 11-9.
“I like to place my serve and tell Jill where I’m going. That way, she can just look for the ball and put it away,” Riley said. “Our formations have gotten a lot better throughout the season. A big goal for us is trying to get most of the doubles points in our conference matches.”
“In doubles, she (Riley) has really worked hard to improve her knowledge of the game and court positioning,” WSU coach Eric Burns said. “She is becoming strong in all areas, but she is really turning into a player who can control the net and finish points for her partner. She also has a steady serve.”
It has been a similar story for Riley in singles with a 16-17 record on her racket, but she is off to a hot start in conference play with a 3-0 record against Northern Kentucky, Horizon League powerhouse University of Illinois Chicago (UIC), and Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).
“In singles, she has a big game and controls points, and she has slowly started adding more variety,” Burns said. “This will allow her to be versatile and use different game plans against different opponents and styles.”
Riley admits she can be a perfectionist at times on the court. During a match, she utilizes a few different strategies to sustain her belief in herself.
“When I hit winners, I love to yell, ‘Come on!,’” Riley said with a laugh. “Getting confidence and being able to finish off points is huge for me. When I can see my other teammates are performing well, that helps me too.”
“She’s working more on the mental side of the game right now and trying to get better in that facet,” Burns said.
As a biological sciences major with hopes of reaching medical school, the student-athlete balance can be tough to juggle Riley says.
“Anytime I’m not playing tennis, I’m doing schoolwork and trying to keep on top of that. It’s so hectic, especially during the spring,” Riley said. “If you get a routine as the semester goes on that helps. We (Riley and her teammates) have a support system, because we can talk about what’s going on in school and our daily lives.”
The Raiders have been on the brink of bringing home the first Horizon League title for WSU after dropping the championship match two consecutive seasons to Youngstown State. With the recent rally from Riley, that could change soon.
“The team has come so close. I feel like that in itself motivates us,” Riley said. “We want it so bad.”