Photo Credit: Michael Le Brecht II
Marissa Encarnacion bid a sad “auf wiedersehen” to her USTA Hawaii teammates earlier this year, her family having recently moved to Germany. The pull of her teammates – and a chance at a Jr. Team Tennis National Championship – brought her back to the United States.
By Susan Dunham, special to USTA.com
Marissa Encarnacion of the USTA Hawaii Jr. Team Tennis 18 & Under Advanced team worked hard all season, cheered on her teammates and eventually won the opportunity to compete at the National Championships in Cayce, S.C.
Yet before she had a chance to celebrate, Encarnacion found out that her family was moving to Stuttgart, Germany – her father, a U.S. Army officer, being stationed there – and that it would happen before this month's National Championships.
The distance covered flying from Hawaii across the mainland to South Carolina is 4,600 miles one way, easily the longest trek for any of the 32 teams. Flying in from Germany was roughly the same distance for Encarnacion.
There was never any doubt in the 14-year-old’s mind on whether or not she would be here for her team.
“Even though I moved to a different country, I knew I wanted to be at this tournament,” said Encarnacion. “This was the first time we’d made it to the National Championships and I really wanted to come back and see my friends from home and play with my team one last time.”
Hawaii coach Pam Nakaso credited Encarnacion’s dedication to the team as “one of the biggest sources of inspiration for her team this week.”
“Having her come back to play with us all the way from Germany has been amazing,” added Nakaso. “We are so excited to have her here.”
Especially her doubles partner, Kayla Manz, who’s also one of her best friends on the team.
“It’s exciting to have Marissa back because I haven’t seen her in a while,” Manz said. “We’ve been e-mailing each other, but it’s not the same. We’ve known each other since we were about 7 years old, so it’s so easy to play doubles together because we know each other so well.”
The team aspect of Jr. Team Tennis was a huge motivating factor for Encarnacion to travel from Germany to South Carolina.
“I love team sports and I felt like I owed it to my team to be here," Encarnacion said. "We worked so hard during the season and it was all for this moment.”
Win or lose, the trip for Encarnacion has already been a success.
“I’m able to see some really good friends and hang out with them playing the sport we all love, tennis,” she said.