GVSU sophomore steps into top spot

GVL / Emily Frye
Sophomore Abby Perkins

GVL / Emily Frye Sophomore Abby Perkins

Beau Troutman

Typically in sports, it’s best to move past mistakes. If a quarterback throws an interception, they’re told to forget about it. If a shooting guard misses a 3-pointer, they’re supposed to keep firing and prepare for the next one.

For Grand Valley State’s women’s tennis player Abby Perkins, it’s quite the opposite.

Perkins has a penchant for calling herself out after mistakes. Rather than let it go, she has the ability to turn her frustration into motivation, and it’s this intensity that has enabled her to have success on the court.

“The word on Abby is, is that she’s tenacious and she’s dangerous,” her father Bruce Perkins said. “She’s so focused and so driven on what she’s doing, it’s really impressive.”

Perkins is in her sophomore season at GVSU. She is the No. 1 seed on a talented team that’s off to a 4-0 start. On a team with no upperclassmen, there are no seniors to serve in leadership roles.

Abby Perkins has taken that role head-on.

“Abby is playing the top player from every school we face. I expect that she will give 110 percent every time she steps on the court,” said GVSU head coach John Black. “She will have some great wins this season and is starting to develop into a team leader.”

Perkins played tennis at Mason High School, where she was named First Team All-State all four years of her high school career. In 2012, she won the MHSAA Division II State Championship from the No. 5 seed as a sophomore. She was also named to the Lansing State Journal’s prep girls dream team the same year.

She was the 211th-ranked recruit coming out of high school according to www.tennisrecruiting.net, and held offers from several universities. Although she had many options to choose from, her decision was an easy one.

“We required her to take all five of her visits before she made a decision,” Bruce Perkins said. “When we went to Grand Valley, the day we picked her up, I said ‘Well, what’d you think on a scale of 1-10?’ And she said, ‘Dad, I’d give it a 10 out of 10. I don’t want to go home.’”

She says the decision has been the best she’s ever made.

“I love the school,” Perkins said. “I’m really lucky to be under coach Black, and being a part of such a great athletic program like Grand Valley. Every single thing lined up perfectly for me here, I got really lucky. I could’ve ended up at a lot of places I know I wouldn’t have been as happy at.”

This past summer, Perkins worked with Joey Farias, a tennis pro at the Michigan Athletic Club (MAC) in Lansing, so she could take her game to the next level.

“She wanted to play a little bit higher in the lineup,” Farias said. “Usually players that are higher in the lineup have a different play style than she was used to. A lot of it was the footwork, the mentality of certain game styles, and serves was the big one.”

Farias also helped Perkins with techniques to manage her chronic shoulder soreness, which she has been struggling with since high school. There hasn’t been any structural damage, and the soreness has for the most part subsided. Farias said she deserves all the credit.

“When it came to her shoulder, she was very good at problem solving. When it wasn’t feeling well, she’d try to figure out a way on her own to find a way to make her way around it,” he said.

Perkins’ parents knew her determination and focus would yield a lot of success, and her achievements come as no surprise.

“She put a lot of sacrifice and effort into it,” Bruce Perkins said. When other kids would be out on Friday nights or on Saturday, she had to play in a tournament and had to get up at 5:30 – 6 in the morning to travel to go play. We’re very proud of her for that.”

After defeating Northwood this past Sunday, GVSU has shown that it could be a serious contender for the GLIAC title despite its youth.

GVSU plays Wayne State this Friday. The Lakers failed to beat the Warriors in three tries last season, including in the GLIAC Tournament final. After last year’s results, Perkins says this one is personal.

“With four of the sophomores in the lineup, I feel like last year we kind of lived it, and it’s more of a personal goal for everyone,” she said. “I feel like this year everyone wants it so badly. It’ll be tough, but we can do it for sure.”