Student Athlete of the Week: Gulfport’s Laurel Dennis and Ryland Buford
This week for WXXV’s Student Athlete of the Week, we’re giving you two for the price of one, we’re featuring two Coast athletes that you could say are a package deal.
News 25’s Grace Boyles catches up with Gulfport’s mixed doubles pair Ryland Buford and Laurel Dennis following their championship run.
It was with that smash point from freshman Ryland Buford on match point that made him and sophomore Laurel Dennis 6A Mixed Doubles State Champions.
Even though the two hadn’t played together all season, competing as a mixed pairs double for the first time in the district tournament, Dennis and Buford blazed their way through the playoffs fulfilling a prophecy the pair had set when they were just kids. Buford said, “We have always been wanting to win State together, since we were like in elementary school. And we always said that we were and then we got in high school, we wanted to this year.”
Dennis said, “We grew up playing together. Whenever we were younger we played in some adult tournaments too. And we wanted to do it in high school.”
With the victory years in the making, the childhood pals were elated with their accomplishment even if it didn’t seem like it. “We were both really happy. Ryland didn’t really show it, but–” “I did show it. I was just in a serious mindset.”
For the Dennis and Buford families, who have spent countless hours at the courts watching, supporting, and cheering on their children, seeing them earn a championship together was a special moment. “They were super proud of us and I think they were happy that we could do it together.”
“I think they were most proud of how well we played and we’ve always said that we were going to win. So, when they saw that we won I think they were just really happy.”
Over the years, the pair have learned what each other’s strongest shots are and how to place the ball accordingly, however, what really makes the duo unstoppable is something they’ve developed off the court. “We’ve learned to just deal with each other in different ways. Yeah.”
“And we’ve also always been like really close friends, so that helps us know how to deal with each other.”
Dennis plans on playing tennis through high school, however, focusing more on volleyball. Buford hopes to continue his tennis career in college and beyond.
Both tennis players said one of the reasons they love the sport is because it is something they can play for the rest of their lives and that’s exactly what they intend on doing.
If you know of anyone on the Coast that deserves to be featured as News 25 Student Athlete of the Week you can contact Grace Boyles via email at GBoyles@wxxv25.com or on Twitter @GraceBBoyles or on Facebook at Grace Boyles WXXV.