BENTON – Benton Lady Panther tennis players Any Jivan and Lauren Dudley were at Benton Arena to acknowledge their step to the next level on Wednesday afternoon at Benton Arena. Jivan received a full academic scholarship to Hendrix College in Conway and will play tennis there, and Dudley signed a letter of intent to play tennis at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia.
“This is an amazing time for these two young ladies,” Benton tennis Coach Justin Warner said. “We’ve been through a lot these past few three years and these two have worked extremely hard. In my five years of coaching tennis, this is the first time we’ve had anyone sign to play in college so this is a special time for me. I’m very appreciative of their hard work and dedication.”
Jivan was a doubles player for the Lady Panthers, who with her partner Emily Parker, stormed through the year and lost just one match during the regular season, according to Warner. Jivan and Parker lost in the quarterfinals, but won the consolation game to take third place in conference.
The duo then went to state to face tennis powerhouse Jonesboro.
“I guess if you could make a comparison to Jonesboro in tennis, it would be like Alabama in football,” Warner explained. “They’re champions. [Jivan and Parker] knocked Jonesboro off in the first round and wound up making it to the semifinals in state. Any is just very focused and aggressive on the court, and very steady. They did amazing.”
Dudley came a long way as she just started playing tennis just a few years ago.
“Lauren started playing with us three years ago and has been one of the hardest workers on the team,” Warner said. “She took a lot of lessons, played in a lot of tournaments and got very good very quick. It’s nice to see her hard work paying off.”
Dudley earned All-Conference and finished the season losing in the semifinals of the conference tournament and the quarterfinals of the state tournament.
“Her parents couldn’t have been more supportive,” Warner said of Dudley’s mother and father. “You hear all the time about the nightmare parents that really pressure their kids and that’s not these two. They’re always very positive, win or lose, and I think that’s really helped her enjoy the sport.”
“I’m really excited because I really didn’t play competitive tennis until I started my sophomore year,” Dudley said. “And to have come so far, it’s amazing because I didn’t think I was ever going to get this far – and then a scholarship.”
Dudley, who will be in honors college, plans to major in English at Henderson and then follow in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer. Dudley said Henderson felt like home.
“I love the atmosphere,” she said. “Everybody I met was just so nice, they were so welcoming; they were excited to have new people. Coach [Brenda] Joiner is like a second mother to me. Everybody’s great. I love it.”
Dudley’s mother, Sheryl, likes the proximity of Henderson to Benton.
“I like that it’s 45 minutes door-to-door,” Sheryl Dudley said. “We’re just so proud and so excited. She’s worked really hard; a lot of lessons. It would be 30 degrees and she would be out there, and in the summer when it was hot and sweaty. She worked really hard for this.”
Jivan said she is going to major in biochemistry at Hendrix to fulfill her pharmacy requirements for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Jivan said she liked the hometown feel of Hendrix.
“I’m really excited,” Jivan said. “I went to stay there a night before and everyone that I met all knew each other, but didn’t have to know each other. It was just a very small community feeling, and coming from a town that isn’t that big, it just feels right. “View more articles in: