Karlyn Ray figured her collegiate future would involve numerous hours of study since she plans to major in biomedical science.
Now, she needs to schedule some time for tennis practice.
The C.B. Aycock senior is leaving the tradition-rich tennis program and heading to the University of Mount Olive. On Monday, Ray signed a national letter of intent to play for the Trojans next fall.
“It’s very real because I didn’t really think that I’d go to college for tennis, especially at Mount Olive,” Ray said. “It’s close to home, and I definitely want to be close to home right now.
“I wanted to go to Mount Olive because of coaches, majors, and because it’s 30 minutes away from home, so if I need anything, my parents are always there.”
Ray said she developed her work ethic and drive from playing in a competitive tennis program for the last four years. She started playing tennis at seven years old, and she quickly developed a deep love for the sport.
“I’ve been playing tennis for over ten years now,” Ray said.
The Golden Falcons have one of the area’s most-competitive prep programs and have become a fixture in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3A playoffs.
A charismatic and articulate student, Ray helped C.B. Aycock lead the Golden Falcons to the 10-4 record last season and a 7-3 record in Eastern Carolina 3A/4A Conference play.
It was the first time the Golden Falcons have finished with double-digit wins since 2017.
She played mostly No. 3 singles as a freshman, but Ray has played in the No.1 singles spot since she was a sophomore. Ray has built up a 43-25 in singles, including a 14-8 mark during her junior season.
“It’s been very fun playing tennis at Aycock,” Ray said. “Everyone is like family, and everyone is welcomed by the other players.”
Ray does not mind sitting on the baseline and pounding out groundstrokes while waiting for her opponent to hit into a mistake.
However, Ray can challenge her opponents by approaching the net on occasion, and her steady improvement during her time at C.B. Aycock eventually enabled her to sign with the Trojans.