Whitney and Billy Paluch, a Rapid City sister and brother whose names are synonymous with South Dakota tennis excellence, continue to pile up South Dakota tennis titles. The former Stevens High School standouts recently captured the mixed-doubles title at the Asfora/Clayton South Dakota Adult Open in Sioux Falls.
And ironically, given that the Paluch household is chock-full of tennis trophies achieved during their prep careers at Rapid City Stevens — Whitney, three individual state high school singles championships and two state doubles titles; and Billy, a four-time state singles and five-time state doubles champion and South Dakota’s all-time leader in wins with 142 — the duo had never previously shared a mixed-doubles title.
“Actually, we haven’t played mixed doubles that many times in the past,” said Whitney, who played collegiately at both Cal-State Northridge and the University of Montana, from where she graduated in 2010, and is spending the summer teaching at the Black Hills Tennis Center with Billy.
“Usually, I have played with my dad (Daryl, owner operator of the Black Hills Tennis Center), or maybe a cousin (Corey, also a former Stevens state champion) so Billy and I just haven’t made it happen before.
In addition to the mixed-doubles title, Billy — currently playing collegiately at Creighton University — also claimed his first South Dakota Adult Open title with a 7-5, 6-4 win over top-seeded Chris Clayton of Florida. Whitney took home runner-up honors in women’s singles, falling to No. 1-seeded and former
O’Gorman standout Veronika Leszayova, 6-3, 6-3.
“I’ve been training pretty hard here at home with my dad and Whitney this summer and also feel that I’m in the best shape of my life. So I had a lot of confidence going into the tournament,” Billy said of the mixed-doubles title. “Whitney and I felt pretty confident going in since we know each other’s games so well and communicate well on the court. We also have a lot of fun together.”
Clearly, having fun on the tennis court, has always been a Paluch family philosophy. One that has been successfully passed on from one generation to the next by parents Carolyn and Daryl, both of whom competed at the collegiate level as well — Carolyn at St. Thomas University in Minnesota and Daryl at the University of New Mexico.
“I think tennis has always been fun for us because they never put too much pressure on us,” Whitney said. “They always let us make the big decisions about when and where we wanted to play, and by doing that, made it fun and challenging and something to look forward to. They were also very good at motivating us and helping us to define goals in high school and college. By defining those goals made it easier to effectively pursue them.”
Billy shares that perspective while also pointing out that tennis has always been more than simply a sport to the Paluch family — it has been a family bonding activity, as well.
“It’s always been a family experience for us, a family outing every time we play,” he said. “We really work well together as a family and have always helped each other be successful. Plus, I think we just have always wanted to share time together as a family, and tennis has been an activity that makes that possible. We also like the challenge and the chance to make each other proud.”
As for future tennis plans, Daryl simply wishes for Whitney and Billy to continue to enjoy the game.
“I’d like them to pass on that passion to the kids they teach,” he said. “And I would like to see them play in some big tournaments now and then and see how they do. I think that it will be a good experience for them. After then, I’m sure they will continue to play and teach the game.
“There were seven in my family, my brothers and sisters, and five of us got tennis scholarships so we’ve been around the game for a lot of years.”
One would have to think Whitney and Billy Paluch will be, too.