He bounces the tennis ball lightly beside his feet, the sun accentuating its fluorescent green shade. Beads of sweat form on his forehead, running a short ways down before being absorbed by his headband. The smattering of applause from the last point falls away, and he prepares to serve.
His feet part and his knees bend; his head drops and his arms come together briefly. He gently tosses the ball upward and follows its motion. As the ball rises, his body sinks. His right arm points towards the sky, his left holds the racket at hip level, preparing to pounce. At the ball’s apex, he begins his rise.
His legs propel his body vertical, his feet leave the ground and his arms switch places; the left arcs through the air on course to meet the ball while the right bends inward. He connects and his momentum carries him forward ever so slightly. His left leg swings up in the follow through, a goofy signature. The ball cuts across the court, passing over the net by mere inches and bouncing just inside the first white lines. His opponent flinches, momentarily prepared to return, but then stops as the ball zips past; he had no chance. Another ace. The crowd cheers and he lets loose a thin smile before preparing to serve again. This is sophomore Vaughn Reardon.
“I’ve been playing tennis for seven years, since I was about 9,” said Reardon. “I had brain surgery when I was 9 due to a brain tumor and couldn’t play contact sports after that. My mom was a tennis player so I decided I should play tennis.”
Vaughn grew up in Kansas City, Mo., and moved to Hood River when he was 13. He is the sixth child of Joanne and Dr. James Reardon. At the age of 4, he began having seizures, which led to the discovery of a benign brain tumor. The tumor was monitored over the years, during which time the seizures increased in frequency and severity.
“I was having multiple seizures every day and couldn’t go to school,” said Reardon. “It wasn’t cancerous but it was causing a lot of problems.”
Vaughn traveled to Stanford Medical Center and underwent surgery to remove his tumor, which was successful. Due to the extent of the surgery and the recovery time, Vaughn was away from home for two months. His mother, Joanne Reardon, accompanied him throughout the journey. When Vaughn was able to return home, he suffered a bout of meningitis and was hospitalized again for a short period. The experience had a significant impact on Vaughn’s personality.
“It was a very difficult time, indeed,” said Joanne Reardon. “After it all, he was definitely a more solemn, serious soul. In fact, we refer to him as an old soul. He is very empathetic and wise for someone his age.”
Joanne has played tennis since she was 13, and was encouraging when Vaughn chose to take up the sport. The two grew closer thanks to their shared love of the sport and the constant traveling they found themselves doing for Vaughn was quick to submerse himself in the competitive world of tennis. He began competing in tournaments sponsored by the United States Tennis Association, the national organization best known for hosting the U.S. Open tournament, at the age of 10. Since then, tennis has been Vaughn’s life, with each year bringing more travel, more camps and more growth in the sport he’s come to love.
“Vaughn is a tennis ‘junkie,’” said Jon Hiatt, head coach of the Boys Tennis team at HRVHS. “He loves to play and is a student of the game.”
Vaughn’s ability is evident in his record — undefeated so far this season. Coach Hiatt believes Vaughn can win districts again this year. Again. He won as a freshman and his performance this year gives his coach reason to be optimistic. Vaughn is aggressive in his play yet mindful of his court positioning; he strikes the ball hard but maintains his control and focuses on shot placement. His style is not unique to tennis play, but he has made it his and performs it well. His dominance is impressive, but high school competition is not USTA level, and Vaughn realizes as much — he enjoys high school tennis for different reasons.
“I love being part of the team,” said Reardon. “The solo part of going to USTA matches is lonely; nobody knows who I am or cheers you on during a match. In high school, all your teammates are around you and supporting you. You feel like you’re representing the team and want to do well.”
Beyond his physical playstyle, Vaughn has honed a mental approach that gives him an edge in competition. He refuses to let himself be rattled; win or lose, he doesn’t let his emotions get the best of him. It’s noticed by those who watch him compete, such as his mother, and acknowledged by Vaughn himself. In his eyes, it’s a key to maintaining confidence and focusing on winning.
“What I love about Vaughn’s playing style is the calm, quiet approach he takes,” said Joanne Reardon. “He doesn’t let himself get rattled. Yes, he’s aggressive out there, but what stands out to me is his maturity on the court. If you watch junior tennis enough, you’ll see boys screaming, cheating, smashing racquets — but not Vaughn.”
“I enjoy the tough, grueling matches because it’s all on you; anybody can beat anybody on a given day, it’s all mental,” said Vaughn Reardon. “It’s a mind game, tennis.”
When he isn’t playing tennis for the high school, Vaughn is traveling the country to attend tennis camps and tournaments. This summer he’ll head to the east coast for a camp at the University of Pennsylvania, one where he looks to display his skills before coaches and scouts. While he has a few years to consider his future, Vaughn has aspirations with tennis in mind, but is keeping his sights close for now. Regardless of what he decides, his mother is ready to support him.
“First, I want to win state. I feel I can prove something this year,” said Reardon. “I’d love to play college tennis, preferably on the east coast where the sport is more prevalent.”
“As a parent, you want your child to really enjoy whatever their passion is,” said Joanne Reardon. “Win or lose, he is learning and gaining life experience. Vaughn’s tennis journey and life are really up to him. We would love to see him continue to play and compete after high school and will support him in any decision he makes about that. As long as he is getting joy from the experience — that’s what is important to us.”