Photo: Eduardo Zamarripa
Nell Boyd knows how to compete. She played three different sports in high school and had great success in the two that she played her junior and senior years. But when it was time for college, the choice to continue a sport was a no-brainer.
“I couldn’t imagine myself not playing a sport in college,” Boyd said. “I love tennis the most so I always wanted to do that. It’s also a good way for me to balance my time management.”
Boyd, who played basketball her freshman and sophomore years of high school, finished fourth and fifth in Illinois High School Association state badminton her junior and senior years, respectively.
Yet when it came time to select a school to continue her tennis career, Boyd was wowed by Drake.
“The team chemistry was really good,” she said. “At the other schools I visited, the teams weren’t as close. I also loved the coach, Coach Thomson. And as a bonus, our tennis center is unreal.”
The feelings are mutual. Boyd has already earned praise from her peers, and senior Gabby Demos can already see a little of herself as a freshman in Boyd.
“I was really excited to make the transition and join higher competition,” Demos said. “I think we will learn a lot about Nell in the next few weeks and at our first couple of tournaments, but I think she is dedicated and excited to be here.”
Just as Thomson impressed Boyd, Thomson’s list of Boyd’s positives went on and on.
“Her athleticism [caught my eye],” Thomson said. “She is a competitor. Her training routine, her attitude, she’s got a great family, she’s strong academically and the girls in the program now really get along with her. It was really a no-brainer. It was just a good fit all around.”
Even with all the talk being there, Boyd still had to walk to walk. Yet in just her first week as a college athlete, it looks like she is making the transition from high school as seamless as possible.
“Everyone is really nice,” Boyd said. “Our practices are really fun when we’re all together. Our practices are really long, but we all work really hard, which is good that everyone is staying focused and working really hard to get back into form. Everything is good.”
On a squad with four seniors, Boyd expects to step right in and be successful in her freshman year.
“I’m hoping to play some doubles,” Boyd said. “I’m really just hoping to bring some wins to the team because they have always had good seasons in the past, so I hope to contribute to continuing that success.”
Thomson remains humble about her contribution to the team this season, but he is unable to hold back all the optimism about where she stands right now.
“[Her poise] will come,” Thomson said. “She’s a little ahead of some that I’ve seen, but also behind some others. She definitely brings some good things to the table.”
Thomson expects his experienced team to help Boyd fulfill her potential.
“It’s a mentoring process,” Thomson said. “They’ve been here, they know the routine, they’ve been around me for a year, they’ve been around Drake for four years, they know how classes work and how professors test, so they just need to filter that down to her.”
But if you ask Boyd, that aspect hasn’t been a problem.
“They’re all being really nice,” Boyd said. “They’re all asking me if I need help with homework because they’ve all taken most of the classes that I’m in. They’re also getting my number to see if I ever want to go get meals or do anything like that. They really have been acting like big sisters to me so far.”
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