Riley, a 2011 PIAA Class AA state champion singles from Loysburg, Pa., played four years of tennis at Tussey Mountain High School because Northen Bedford did not have a boys tennis program. Then, when it came time to pick a college, he took the unconventional road again, selecting Division III Grove City over Division I programs Villanova and Duquesne.
After one year, the decision proved to work out for Riley, who took home Presidents’ Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors and had a standout first season. Riley posted a 7-1 record playing first singles, along with a 10-2 doubles record, while leading Grove City to the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament.
Recently, USTA Middle States caught up with Riley to discuss his freshman season at the college level and several other topics.
Middle States: To start off, can you talk a little bit about your involvement with Middle States and your overall history a tennis player?
Peter Riley: I began playing tennis when I was 7. My uncle taught me a lot early on, and I began to play in a lot of tournaments when I was in middle school.
MS: You chose Grove City over some bigger programs that featured Division I tennis. Are you happy with that decision after one season?
PR: Definitely happy with my decision. My school is pretty challenging academically, and I wanted academics to be one of my focuses in college. I can’t imagine playing even more matches at a bigger school when I’m already really busy throughout the season?
MS: You had a really successful high school tennis career, and your time at Grove City is off to a good start? Are there any big differences you noticed transitioning from the high school game to college?
PR: The big thing I’ve noticed in college tennis is that you really have to be mentally tough. The players are a little more mature, and I have to make sure to stay steady. While I could get away with a few unforced errors in high school, I can’t do that anymore here.
MS: As mentioned earlier, you had a really nice freshman season. Were you expecting to play as many first Singles matches as you did?
PR: I started off the season playing No. 2 Singles, but a small injury to one of our players led to me stepping in at the first spot. I was used to playing No. 1 Singles throughout high school, so that definitely helped.
MS: It looked like the Grove City roster was pretty young this past season. What are your expectations for the team going forward?
PR: It is definitely a young team. I saw a lot of the other freshmen around me improve over the year, and that should help us going into next season.
MS: Is there any specific part of your game that you’re looking to improve upon this summer and going forward?
PR: My serves need to be a lot stronger and more consistent. I’m looking to improve my overall doubles game as well.
MS: Finally, is there one piece of advice you could provide to some younger players who are just starting to play the sport?
PR: If you enjoy the game, it’s a great sport. Towards the beginning, it’s not really about how successful you are. You might not develop as a player instantaneously, but it’s important that you’re out there learning and getting experience.