Senior Spring: women's tennis co-captain Taylor Ng '17, Dartmouth's first NCAA singles tournament qualifier

by Jonathan Katzman | 5/1/17 1:40am

by Tiffany Zhai / The Dartmouth

You could go on and on reading Taylor Ng ’17’s on-court accomplishments with the women’s tennis team. Three-time All-Ivy selection in singles and doubles. Ivy League Player of the Year. Class of 1976 Award as Dartmouth’s female athlete of the year — as a sophomore. And her talents extend beyond the baseline. An economics and anthropology double major, Ng also received the Class of 1948 Scholar-Athlete Award as the Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

From her list of accolades, you might think Ng was one of those child stars featured in Sports Illustrated. The truth is that while young players were training four hours each day from the time they were 7 years old, Ng spent her time playing multiple sports just for fun as a way to burn energy. Tennis was one of those.

“I started playing when I was four,” Ng said. “My parents did not play, but they wanted my older sister and me to get involved in sports we could play for the rest of our lives, so they thought tennis would be good for that. I sort of went with it and joined my high school tennis team, which competed in the fall. After that, I’d put the racquets down and play other sports.”

In fact, it was not until midway through Ng’s junior year of high school that she decided she wanted to pursue tennis at the collegiate level.

“I played a few tournaments from the time I was 11 to 14 but was not a fan of the environment or travel,” she said. “I knew that I had to start playing more events and gradually tried to get in touch with a college coaches. I just wrote a skeleton email because I had no record or credentials and got a few replies back.”

One response was from women’s tennis head coach Bob Dallis. After watching Ng play 11 matches over the course of a single weekend, Dallis extended an offer to the player who just months earlier was beginning to think about how to make a name for herself on the junior circuit. Intrigued by the possibility of attending Dartmouth for academic reasons, Ng had her share of nerves in front of Dallis.

“I was so stressed when [Dallis] was going to watch me,” Ng said. “For some reason, all I could eat were Cheerios and dry pasta that whole weekend. I guess that played a crucial role in how I played that weekend.”

Recruiting a player with relatively light competitive playing experience did not worry Dallis, however.

“I actually think the fact that she did not play a full national schedule until her senior year helped,” Dallis said. “Because of that, she was fresh compared to other talented players you see at the college level, as well as hungry and eager to get better and make an impact.”

To say Ng made an impact during her first season in Hanover would be an understatement. After gaining valuable experience playing national tournaments during her final year of high school — picking up a title and finishing the year as the No. 1 under-18 female player in United States Tennis Association Middle States region — Ng won 10 singles matches and nine doubles matches on her way to second team All-Ivy accolades.

“When I was in high school, I would maybe practice serious twice each week for a few hours at a time,” Ng said. “I definitely stepped up my practice and gym routines before coming to Dartmouth as well as played tons of tournaments. Coming into college, I wanted to learn more about strategy and how to use my strengths and weaknesses, and [Dallis] and [assistant coach Dave Jones] were a huge help with that.”

If Ng’s first season was impressive, her second was off the charts, perhaps the best season in Dartmouth women’s tennis history. Ng amassed a 36-7 overall record, with just one loss at the No. 1 singles position, on her way to becoming Dartmouth’s first-ever NCAA singles tournament qualifier. During an 11-match streak that spring, she peaked at No. 40 in the nation.

“I think it was an exciting year,” Ng said. “I had some great experiences and having the chance to go to NCAAs was very motivational because it showed me where I needed to be compete at the next level.”

Ng’s junior-year accolades showed an additional component to what she brought to the court. In addition to earning first team All-Ivy honors in both singles and doubles and being part of the first Dartmouth doubles tandem with Kristina Mathis ’18 to qualify for the NCAA tournament, Ng was awarded the national Arthur Ashe, Jr. Leadership and Sportsmanship Award as a United States collegiate tennis player who excelled on and off the court. That Ng has achieved at the highest level of college tennis while doing things the right way has made everything that much more special.

“Sportsmanship has always come before anything else, and it’s something that came from my parents,” Ng said. “It can be easy to lose sight of, especially during tight matches, but I was taught to do the right thing even if it was not popular.”

For all that she has achieved, Ng still insists that she would trade all of her individual accolades for a memorable team experience.

“We achieved as a team this year not because we won Ivies and qualified for NCAAs,” Ng said. “It was because we got so close and really cared about each other to a level I had never experienced before. Some people say that it gets tiring being around the same people all the time, but that was never the case for me throughout my four years.”

Ng’s senior season isn’t over just yet. The team beat Princeton University last weekend, simultaneously claiming a share of the Ivy League title and a berth in the NCAA tournament.

“To see all of our hard work pay off last Sunday with the other 10 girls and coaches on the courts at the same time was incredible,” Ng said.

As Ng wraps up her storied career, it is difficult to quantify her immense contributions to Dartmouth women’s tennis.

“Taylor has been an incredible teammate from the very beginning,” classmate and co-captain Jacqueline Crawford ’17 said. “She has so much enthusiasm towards tennis and the team, and she always knows how to support all of us. Her grit always pulled us forward.”

That’s quite a legacy to leave behind.