Laas, Moll named to USTA
Junior Leadership Team
May 18, 2018
Viva Laas and Michael Moll have been named to the third annual USTA Junior Leadership Team, which recognizes America’s finest junior tennis players who exhibit leadership, sportsmanship and character on and off the court.
Laas, of Bonita Springs, Fla., and Moll, of Naples, Fla., are among more than 30 players nationwide named to the USTA Junior Leadership Team. Each player was nominated by his or her USTA section for their excellence in tennis and in the community.
“These players are our future leaders, and the values they’ve shown to embody both on the court and in the community are evidence that our future will be in good hands,” said Lew Brewer, the USTA’s Director of Junior Competition. “They are the perfect role models that represent our nationwide Net Generation efforts, and they truly deserve to be recognized with the USTA Junior Leadership Team.”
Laas, 18, has been ranked among the Top 10 players in Florida in the USTA Girls’ 18s standings, and was named the Naples Daily News’ Player of the Year twice. She led Gulf Coast High School to the 2017 state title, and will play college tennis at the University of Delaware beginning next fall. Additionally, she helped to create a Girls Entering Engineering Club, which is set to promote more women entering into the engineering field.
Moll, 17, has been rated as one of the Top 50 players in Florida across the USTA Boys’ 14s, 16s and 18s rankings. He was the captain of the Naples High School tennis team his sophomore and junior seasons, where he was a first-team all-area selection in 2016-17, finished third place in the 2017 state Class 3A doubles championship and was a finalist for the Naples Daily News’ Player of the Year distinction the same year.
Academically, Moll is ranked No. 1 out of 433 in Naples High School’s Class of 2019, with a weighted GPA of 5.08. He is the junior class treasurer of the student government association and the executive treasurer for the Junior States of America organization, and has also volunteered for the Meals of Hope Mobile Food Pantry.
Each year, more than 120,000 players compete in USTA junior tournaments. Players compete in levels of competition through earned advancement in the 10s, 12s, 14s, 16s and 18s age divisions. USTA junior tournaments help kids take their game as far as they want – high school, college or pros – or just have fun competing.
In their own words...
Viva Laas: I started playing tennis at the age of 8 with my current coach (Chuck Breger). When I started, it was a way of kicking me out of the house, but it soon developed into my life. The sport has created mass opportunities for me to connect with people all over the world.
When I was 5 years old, my mom and I moved to the United States from a small country in Europe called Estonia. Once I arrived, I had to begin a new chapter of my life. Three short years later, I was on a tennis court, meeting new people and developing a group that I could not only rely on, but also support, as well. Through this, I met my coach, who is now a major father figure and my best friend. We joke around but know when to buckle down and work hard. He has taught me from day one that having fun and being honest is the best way to achieve greatness. It is because of his encouragement and faith in my ability that I am where I am today. He aided me every step of the way, through every emotional breakdown from tournaments and every single fall I made.
This sport has also helped me to develop connection abilities. My coach has now set me up to train with others that have now become great friends. I enjoy going out and training and then being able to hit with the younger generation in order to teach them all that the sport has taught me. I want them to share the same enthusiasm of the sport and see how many life skills the sport teaches you. The sport truly teaches how to have multiple plans of action and how to quickly come up with solutions on your own. Me being the hyper person that I am, the sport has helped me to stay calm and focus on the present rather than jump all over the place.
In life, not everything will go your way. This lesson is a hard one to swallow, but learning it will bring so much to the table. In tennis, not every day is your best, but going out every day and working to make my best days better drives me to move forward. The sport is an individual one, which teaches you how you are the ingredient that makes your tennis game better. In life, you are the ingredient that can make or break your own life. You can take in the environment around you and change it to make it your enemy or your ally. For example, in tennis, the wind is a major factor. Instead of letting it destroy your game, you have to change your game to use it within your strategy. Using specific serves for specific sides of the court can help bring a stronger serve that will weaken your opponent.
I owe a lot to tennis. It has brought amazing people into my life that I could not imagine being without. It has made me a stronger, more advanced version of myself. I am going to college with no debt thanks to my determination and hard work.
Michael Moll: Since I was 4 years old, I grew up playing four different sports. From baseball, basketball and football, I got great exercise, discovered the importance of teamwork, and learned how to win and lose gracefully. In all three sports, there was always a coach and a referee by my side to officiate and create a game plan for us. However, tennis was much different. In matches, there was no coach and rarely a referee. With tennis, I was alone on the court and had to learn to make fair calls and self-diagnose my mistakes on my own. I had to figure out what was working and what was not working and make adjustments with no help from a coach. I think this is an invaluable life skill that tennis taught me from a very young age.
The other thing that tennis has given me is a collection of memories that I would not have otherwise experienced. During Winter Nationals in Tucson, Ariz., I would play my matches in the morning and then spend the afternoon hiking in the Santa Catalina Mountains. During Zonals in Arlington, Va., our team would face off on the court in the morning and then head to Cowboys Stadium for an afternoon tour. Without tennis, I likely would have never traveled to all of these great places and have experienced memories that I will keep for a lifetime.
Lastly, tennis has taught me the value of resilience and organization that has helped me immensely in my academic career. In tennis, we can all attest that a match is never over until the very last point is won. I’ve come back from down 9-3 in a third-set tiebreaker, and I’ve learned to never give up no matter how grim the situation appears. In school, I have applied this resilience to help motivate me to fight through academic challenges and to give my very best effort no matter how difficult the material. Similarly, given that it is an individual sport, tennis has taught me to be organized with both my equipment and time management skills. In school, these two skills have helped me considerably in staying on top of my heavy course load.
Although I grew up playing many different sports, I fell in love with tennis for a reason. Being on the court by myself has taught me a myriad of important life lessons including the value of integrity, hard work and resilience. As with every sport, sportsmanship is a key component; however, in tennis, having to officiate the match yourself increases the importance of sportsmanship even more.