Recently Wellesley Varsity Tennis’ Fall Season came to a close. The final match was a heartbreaking 3-5 loss to the MIT Engineers. All at once, the emotional high we had experienced from winning our semi-final round came to a crashing halt as we realized that our chance of automatically qualifying for nationals had crumbled to pieces. Nationals had been the dream for the past few weeks. It was a goal that was distant enough to feel like a challenge, but was close enough to feel as though we could brush it with our fingertips. As I looked around at each of my teammates’ and coaches’ crestfallen expressions, I found myself realizing just how much I came to care for each of them. As my coach later said to us, we are a family. We travel together, we spend almost everyday together, we push our bodies to and beyond the limits together, and we experience the rocky emotional rollercoaster that is our sport together.
Tennis is often characterized as being ninety percent mental and ten percent physical. It is also an individual sport where, at most, you could have one other teammate on the court with you; otherwise you’re in it all alone. That’s what makes it such an unusual team sport for college and what makes it difficult for coaches to put together a cohesive team. But the thing with my team is that even though we might physically be alone in our matches, we don’t feel alone. In between every single point, won or lost, words of encouragement and motivation are cried from every teammate present. It doesn’t matter if someone is in the middle of her own match or is on the sidelines – they’re there for you no matter what. There have been times in my own matches where I’ve felt physically exhausted or emotionally beat and have been reluctant to keep going. Then I hear the cheers from my teammates and I remember that I’m not out here only playing for myself. I’m out here playing for my school, for everyone who’s helped me bring my game to this level, and for my team.
Being able to play on a varsity team is a special experience. There’s almost nothing close to the adrenaline rush you feel when your teammate has secured the point that wins everybody the match. The sense of pride and the excitement that fill the court is contagious to all present. After our conference semifinal, my father had said to me that he could feel the energy and the closeness of our team from where he sat on the sidelines. He had only been there for a couple of hours, but already he could tell that the bond and love we have for each other are incredibly strong. Sure, no team is absolutely perfect but I could argue that we are perfectly imperfect. I am so proud of my team and I cannot wait to see what we bring in the spring. Our dream of going to Nationals isn’t over. I know as well as my teammates know that we can still pick up those pieces and put them back together in a way that’s stronger and better that ever.