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Midwest / Southeastern Michigan

Senior Shine: Southeastern Michigan

May 19, 2020

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For many of our Southeastern Michigan high school seniors, their final season was cut short. As our way of celebrating all of these wonderful players, we have gathered stories from across Southeastern Michigan to celebrate our amazing class of 2020! Congratulations on a great high school tennis career, we can't wait to see what's in store next.

Nina Khaghany and Alexis Nardicchio, DCDS

Submitted by Azadeh Khaghany:

Nina and Alexis are both captains of the DCDS varsity team. They are state champions for three years and were hoping to get their fourth state title. They ordered cute uniforms and were so excited to lead their team to victory and have fun while working hard.

 

Nina Khaghany will be attending Boston College. Alexis Nardicchio will be attending Northwestern University.


Isabelle Hawley, Gabriel Richard Catholic High School

What will you miss most about high school tennis?

I will definitely miss all my teammates always hyping me up on the court especially when I was playing in a very long match, which happened often.

 

What are your plans for playing tennis after high school?

I plan to play tennis at Wisconsin Lutheran College and also work at a nearby racquet club when I come home from school.

 

What is your strength on the court? Weakness on the court?

My strength would definitely have to be my first serve and my weakness is my net play. I am terrible at the net, but I am working on it!

 

Who is your favorite tennis player?

My favorite tennis player is Juan Martin Del Potro. I love how much he cares for his fans and I love watching him hit his flat forehand, very satisfying.

 

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I have ever received it to take each match point by point and to not get mad at what happened the point before because you will never be able to change the past, but you can control the present and outcome of the future.

 

Do you have any superstitions on the tennis court?

I can never ever wear white socks when I play and I always have to wear a skirt.


Kyra Van Batavia, Chelsea High School

What will you miss most about high school tennis?

I will miss the team bonding moments from tennis the most. The ice cream after occasional practices, our coach led yoga and braiding hair on the bus ride to our opponents.

 

What one item do you have to have in your tennis bag no matter what?

I must have my trusty black notebook and pen in my tennis bag at all times. My coach used to say we should journal after every match and jot down notes so we have things to work on and intel if we ever have to play the same person again.

 

What is one song that will always make you think of your high school tennis team?

Wait a Minute by Willow Smith. The older girls would play this song all the time and by the end of the season our whole team, including coaches, knew all the lyrics.

 

What is your go-to shot on court?

I love the overhead. I enjoy smashing it and getting out frustration. Apparently I’ve become known as “the screamer” for letting out some occasional screams when hitting an overhead.

 

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I’ve ever received was “play because you love the sport, not because you love winning.” This helped me stay mentally strong through many tough matches and has made me a better person overall.

 

A story from Kyra:

One day after practice my coach bought us ice cream with all the toppings. I had moved from a different state and this was my first season with the team so he decided to play a joke on me. He told me ice cream in Michigan didn’t have vanilla in it. He told me to smell it, then put my face in the ice cream. From then on I knew that new team would become my family... and I had ice cream all over my face the rest of practice.


Brittany Silbaugh, Riverview Community High School

What will you miss most about high school tennis?

I'm going to miss so much about tennis but I'm going to miss my teammates the most. We had a great group of girls that worked hard and supported one another no matter what. These girls always brightened my day and I will never forget all the crazy memories from our season together.

 

What one item do you have to have in your tennis bag no matter what?

I always have a blanket. It can be used to wrap up in on a cold day before or after a match. Or if it's a nice day, it's to sit on in the grass and cheer on your teammates.

 

What is your high school coach’s most memorable saying?

Whenever something goes wrong our coach would say, "Oh! Sugar jets!"

 

What is one song that will always make you think of your high school tennis team?

Our coach has a whole tennis playlist that we play during practice, so it's hard to pick just one. I'd have to say Welcome to Chili's by Yung Gravy because that's what we played a lot during conditioning this year.

 

What are you most proud of in your high school tennis career?

Last season we had a starting line up that consisted of three girls who had never played tennis before. No one expected us to have a good season and yet we qualified for states. I will forever be proud of the hard work we put into achieving a goal that seemed impossible.

 

What is your go-to shot on court?

I love hitting anything sharp cross-court. I especially love doing that on a return of serve.

 

Did you prefer singles or doubles and why?

I played doubles every year of high school so that's definitely what I prefer. I like that I have a partner cheer me on when I hit a good shot, but also to push me to play my best.


Shelby Woods, Algonac High School

What will you miss most about high school tennis?

I think the thing I will miss the most about high school tennis is probably that feeling you get out on the tennis court as you’re playing a match. I’m always a bit nervous before I start playing, but once I get out there and I begin to play it’s one of the most refreshing feelings. Next to that I would probably say that I am definitely going to miss practicing with the team after school. It was just one of the best ways to end the school day, going out and playing tennis with your teammates.

 

What one item do you have to have in your tennis bag no matter what?

Oddly enough, for some reason I have always kept a pair of finger-less gloves and a fleece headband in my tennis bag. This is mostly because we always start the tennis season in freezing weather because it’s Michigan, but I don’t really know why I haven’t taken them out yet.

 

What is one song that will always make you think of your high school tennis team?

So last season the Jonas Brothers got back together and came out with the song “Sucker.” And the reason that this song reminds me of my tennis team is because my friend Ashlee would always play songs on her phone during conditioning, and that one always seemed to pop up.

 

What are you most proud of in your high school tennis career?

I would say I am most proud of my first win as a singles player, which was my junior year of high school. I have only been playing tennis since I was a sophomore, so I have never had a lot of experience compared to most of the girls I have played. But after earning the win by myself and seeing my team's reaction, I can definitely say this is what I am most proud of.

 

Did you prefer singles or doubles and why?

I prefer singles, not necessarily because it is seen as a more “prestigious” position, but because I don’t have that additional pressure of somebody else relying on me on my side of the court. I don’t have to worry about letting anybody down other than myself. However, I still really enjoyed playing doubles, it really allows you to create a close bond with your partner and adds a different element to the game.

 

A story from Shelby:

I think that one of the funniest stories I have about my high school tennis career would be in my junior year when it rained outside so practice had gotten cut short, but my coach told us we could get some extra practice in the aux gym and maybe do some conditioning. So five or six of us had stayed afterward, but a few minutes after we started conditioning he told us that we were going to practice with the elementary and middle school wrestling teams. Little did we know this meant pulling 80-pound kids around the gym and doing suicides in under a minute. Needless to say, we weren’t used to this kind of conditioning, and afterward, we were not too happy with the girls who didn’t stay for extra practice because they didn’t have to go through what we did. However, all of us ended up okay and no grudges were held.



Madelyn Vitu, Lutheran High School Northwest

What will you miss most about high school tennis?

I will miss all the relationships I have made with my teammates and all the memories we had during practices and tournaments. The last three years have been so fun and memorable, and I will really miss laughing and sharing moments with the team.

 

What is your strength on the court? Weakness on the court?

My strength would be my patience and endurance. I am able to stay really calm on the court and persevere in long, tough matches. My weakness is that I don't always go for a winning shot and put pressure on my opponent. I often play it safe and don't go for it even if I know I have the ability to do it. That is definitely something I need to work on!

 

What are you most proud of in your high school tennis career?

I am most proud of when I was a state-runner up in #3 singles my junior year. I am also proud of winning leagues and regionals three years in a row.

 

What are your hobbies outside of tennis?

Outside of tennis, I play volleyball, and I'm very involved with school being in many programs including NHS, STEM, mentoring and leadership cohorts. I also love spending time outdoors and traveling.

 

Did you prefer singles or doubles and why?

I have played both singles and doubles in high school. I'm honestly not sure which I prefer because I feel like I play a better game in singles, but also doubles can be so much fun with your partner. I like to play both!


Sarah Schmidt, Everest Collegiate High School & Academy

What will you miss most about high school tennis?

I will miss the camaraderie of the team and how much love is directed toward me on and off the court. I just feel the love from everyone that comes to our matches or is part of the team, the love for the sport and the love for the girls.

 

What are your plans for playing tennis after high school?

After high school, I am going on to Indiana University Bloomington and I hope to play club tennis there. I want to bring my love for the sport to a different state and create many more experiences.

 

What is your strength on the court? Weakness on the court?

Strength on court is my consistency, I can keep my head and self in the game with someone a lot better than me by just being consistent and focusing on every ball that comes over the net. Weakness on the court is probably my competitiveness which is a positive and a negative. I hate losing and that can cause me to get in my head so I have to push those thoughts away and focus on the present and how to win the next point.

 

What are you most proud of in your high school tennis career?

I am so proud of my tennis team for the past 3 years qualifying for states, including my freshman year being the first year the team made it to states EVER. We went from a team of 7 to a team of close to 18 or even more at some points.

 

What is your go-to shot on court?

My go to shot on the court is a drop shot, but first I back them up and then drop the next shot and most of the time they aren’t fast enough and can’t get to the ball. That’s my killer 1-2 combination shot.


Emma Reel, Ann Arbor Skyline High School

Submitted by Brittany Ray:

"Emma is one of our senior captains and has been playing on the Varsity team for all four years. Last season, she played one doubles with partner Natalie Keating, coming on strong in both her net game and ability to strategize her shots. As captain, Emma recognized the importance of team building, and was always organizing fun events and treats for the other girls. Her endlessly positive attitude and ability to encourage and inspire others will always stay with me. One of my favorite memories of Emma was a big tournament win at the Fowlerville Invitational last year. With eight teams competing, Emma made it to the finals, and it was a nail biter. Emma clinched the win with a put-away volley at the net, and the entire team was able to rush out onto the courts. Emma is truly one in a million, and has been a major asset to our team, both as a phenomenal player and an exceptional person."


Krystal Kao, Ann Arbor Skyline High School

Submitted by Brittany Ray:

"Krystal is one of our senior captains and has been playing on the Varsity team for all four years. She is a widely talented player, having tackled both doubles and singles positions in her years on the team. Last season, she began the year at two singles before ultimately taking on the one singles position halfway through the season. This is a challenge not many would be able to tackle, but she did it with grace and determination, impressing everyone with her big serves and strategic playing. I will never forget her big win against Hudsonville, at one of the most difficult tournaments of the season (some of the top teams in the state competed here). During the match, she garnered quite a crowd, and people were audibly “oohing and aahing” at Krystal’s beautiful strokes. Besides being an exceptional player, Krystal was imperative in leading our team. She made us feel like a family with her inclusive mindset and ability to highlight individual strengths. To say she will be missed next year is a huge understatement; she will have a lasting impact on Skyline tennis."

 


Gabi Teodoru, Ann Arbor Skyline High School

Submitted by Brittany Ray:

"Gabi is one of our senior captains and has been playing on the Varsity team for all four years. Last season, she played two singles, and I’ve never seen such intensity and enthusiasm from a player on the court. Watching her play is, quite simply, fun. Her energy and playfulness is something we could all learn from. She is a supremely talented player. One match that stands out to me is her big win against Huron. While our team overall struggled against this powerhouse, Gabi hit her stride and handily crushed her opponent, in large part due to her hustle. She runs down every ball (I cannot believe some of the balls she is able to get her racquet on), and is smart about where she places her returns. On top of this, Gabi’s leadership makes our team infinitely stronger. She encourages people to be their best, leading our workouts with extreme gusto and consuming Fruit Roll-Ups like nobody’s business. Above all else, she brings joy to our group, keeping our practices and matches focused but fun. I know that our team will feel her absence next year, but will keep her spirit going!"

 

 


Rachel Rothenberg, Ann Arbor Skyline High School

Submitted by Brittany Ray:

"Rachel joined the varsity team last year, playing three doubles with partner Vivian Li. This dynamic duo not only had a ton of fun on the court, they also had some of our biggest wins of the season. They were the final team standing in the Regional competition, so the entire team was able to gather and cheer them on. I’ll never forget their big victory against Saline, leading to a high ranking going into the regional competition. Rachel’s strong net game, ability to poach, and killer overheads consistently helped them clinch a win. On top of this, Rachel is a very cerebral player; she thinks a lot about what she is doing, and is supremely coachable. Her friendly attitude and constant positivity helped the rest of our team stay upbeat; it is rare to find a player with such an optimistic personality and ability to inspire that in others. Our team will miss her next year! "

 

 

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