Tennis player Kaitlyn Pellegrino has been explosive on the court this year, and she is only a first-year student. She led the women’s tennis team to the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) Championship and placed first in the competition.
Being a first-year on a college team can be scary for a lot of athletes, but not for Pellegrino. She was not intimidated, and she knew she had something to prove. “College tennis is much different than high school. I was nervous to get out there and try to prove that I belonged with them,” Pellegrino said. It seems fair to say that Pellegrino did just that.
While intimidation was not an issue for her, training was a concern. Although Pellegrino has played tennis since the age of ten, she knew that college would be different. “Coach [Matthew Helsel] had us out practicing everyday. When I asked him what practices were like all he said was, ‘we hit a lot of tennis balls.’”
This regimen has certainly worked in her favor, and she claims her success is a result of the long hours she put into training as a member of the Elizabethtown College women’s tennis team.
Winning was of course Pellegrino’s goal when entering the MAC Championships, and she depended on her team and coach’s advice to make it through.
“Coach told me that for this tournament I need to be patient, get one more ball back than the other girl, and if I see a good opportunity to hit a winner, then do it. But if the opportunity doesn’t arise, then just outlast her and let her make the mistake,” she said.
His advice was just what she needed to clinch the win. “I tried my best to listen and in the end it definitely worked,” Pellegrino said.
Tennis may be a solitary sport, but Pellegrino was far from alone in winning. When she joined this team, Pellegrino was welcomed with open arms by the coach, as well as her teammates.
A bond quickly developed. “When I won, all I heard was loud cheering coming from the girls. They were all supportive of my win. Even if I did not win, I knew they would still be supportive, that’s the kind of team they are and I am glad to be a part of it.” The strong team support is one of the driving forces behind Pellegrino’s success.
Through her training she has developed into a stronger and more confident tennis player. Her team and coach have taught her a great deal within the few short months of the season.
“My greatest strength would have to be my serve and forehand. I would have said my mentality would have been a weakness, but since coming to college it has improved and now I really believe in myself when I play,” she said.
Pellegrino credits her success to her parents, who have been there for her from day one and support her and the goals which she sets for herself. Her mom especially has been a strong influence. “She’s my number one fan. She helps me win or lose and always has good advice,” Pellegrino said.
After Pellegrino began the sport, her mother picked it up as well, and they bonded over the game. “She started tennis after she saw the love I had for it, and now she is in love with the sport too. I have to say I wouldn’t be where I am today if she hadn’t been there with me every step of the way,” Pellegrino said.
Whether it is her supportive family, coach and team, long hours spent training or just pure talent, Pellegrino seems to be a star athlete on the tennis court. She has only been a Blue Jay for a little over two months, but she has proven her outstanding abilities on the court.