By Cobey Culton
UNC Athletic Communications Student Assistant
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - For seniors William Parker and Taylor Meyer, the path to sharing the role of captain on the North Carolina men's tennis team started well before the two players stepped foot in Chapel Hill.
Parker's journey started at a young age. His mother played tennis at Davidson College, while his father played at Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, N.C.
"I lived pretty close to the courts near my house, so it was just something I did," said Parker, "My parents always played, so I just hung out around them and one day I just decided that I wanted to play."
In high school, Parker left home to play for Edison Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where he quickly grabbed the attention of a number of college coaches.
"I knew I wanted to play in the ACC or SEC. I took a bunch of visits and Coach [Sam Paul] made me an offer. When I came here on a visit I knew that this was where I wanted to be. The rest is history," says Parker.
Not all of that history has been smooth sailing, however.
Parker was a part of a three-player recruiting class that included two highly touted recruits in Ryan Noble and Jose Hernandez.
Despite being one of the top recruits in the state of North Carolina, the lanky, 6'2'' Parker found himself taking a backseat to Noble and Hernandez during his freshman year in 2009-10. That season, Noble and Hernandez saw extended action, and both advanced to the semifinals of the ITA Regional Championships.
Parker didn't play in a single match.
After his freshman season, Ryan Noble left the team. Jose Hernandez opted to go pro in the spring of 2012. Parker stayed patient and eventually saw his playing time increase in his sophomore season, when he mainly got time at the No. 6 seed in singles.
Since stepping on the court Parker has been a steady and consistent force in the Tar Heels' singles lineup. This season he has played as high as No. 3 and his career win-loss record of 62-40 in singles matches speaks for itself.
Now, Parker is co-captain with fifth-year senior Taylor Meyer.
Meyer, who redshirted his sophomore year, has seen limited action during his five years - but that hasn't stopped him from being a positive force in the locker room.
"I just try to set the example, especially off the court. That means focusing on academics and doing the right things," said Meyer.
Meyer's track record in the classroom backs him up.
The Raleigh, N.C. product received the Athletic Director's Scholar-Athlete Award and the ITA Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award as a redshirt junior. He has also been named to the ACC Academic Honor Roll twice.
As the two veterans, Meyer and Parker have gotten to know each other over the years. Their relationship predates their days as teammates at Carolina, though.
"William is one of my best friends on the team," said Meyer, "I've known him since I was nine years old. We grew up playing in the junior circuits and we played doubles together.
"He's a great kid and he's been a very good leader. He's been a very vocal leader. That tandem has worked out well."
Thus far, head coach Sam Paul has also been pleased with his pair of veterans.
"They are providing really good leadership," Paul said, "They are getting the guys to work on their own and are making sure we have the right mentality."
For the Tar Heels, the right mentality will be critical as they continue ACC play against eighth-ranked Duke Sunday at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center. The young team has experienced growing pains, but has also shown flashes of what they could become with consistency.
The good news is that the team has a pair of grounded leaders who have been around the block.
"We just have to take things one step at a time," said Parker with a knowing smile.
And that's coming from someone who knows a thing or two about patience.