By: Haley Hunt, Tenacity Intern and Special Correspondent

With the closing of the Tenacity Middle School League tennis season fast approaching, students now have their sights set on qualifying for the most anticipated final tournaments: the Staniar Open (May 12) and the Crane Cup (May 19).

The Curley School enters these tournaments with an undefeated season (4-0-1) and the top spot in the league’s standings. The Curley has won the last two Staniar Opens and are looking for an unprecedented 3-peat.

Earlier this week, following a successful season of “mostly winning [their matches],” sixth grade students Phillip Pepin and Alex Castaneda captured two of the coveted spots in the Staniar Open. At the beginning of the year, both of these players set the goal of playing in this tournament.

Even more motivation comes from the thought that the winner of this event could claim to be the “Best Sixth Grade Player in the League,” according to Philip.

“I come every day with a positive attitude…my winning forehand from the baseline also helps,” Phillip said when asked about his strengths as an athlete.

Having played tennis before at a summer camp, Phillip jumped at the idea of joining Tenacity this season because of the appeal to play year-round. His fitness is steadily improving, and, just yesterday, he set a personal record of 11.5 seconds on the cone shuttle run. He also (along with another teammate) reached his Achievement Point* goal of a seventy-five-stroke rally, and plans to use his “playing hard” mindset to help him win the tough points at the upcoming Staniar Open.

Alex, too, achieved some of her personal goals during yesterday’s training session. For example, she is the only member of her team to hold a three-minute plank.

A five-year participant in Tenacity’s summer program, Alex chose to follow in her brother’s footsteps by also joining the school-year program.
“The most important thing is to play your best. Even if I’m not winning, if I’m playing my best, I’m happy,” Alex said of her on-court mindset. Her teammates look up to her for motivation, and she leads by putting in a 100% effort, and “never giving up.”

Meanwhile, eighth graders José Cabrera and Deroledy Tejeda were busy earning their places on the Crane Cup roster. As three-year members of Tenacity’s program, they have watched older athletes compete in the Crane Cup, and have been inspired to work towards entry to this prestigious event.

“It would be so cool to be able to say, I’m the best tennis player in the league,” José said when asked about his motivation to participate. The pair cited their teammates as key to helping them achieve this goal.

“ I had never been part of a team until [I joined Tenacity]. There’s always lots of yelling during our practice, because everyone is encouraging each other to do their best,” Deroledy noted. “I could never call someone a teammate, or say I was part of a team, until I joined Tenacity’s league.”

Like Alex, both Jose and Deroledy first experienced Tenacity through their older siblings, and wanted to join an environment where everyone both worked hard and shared common goals. Now, three years later, they will finish their middle school tennis careers by achieving their biggest goals. Though they couldn’t reveal their tournament strategies, they plan to use their strengths—forehands—to control their shots, and, of course, to enjoy playing their final matches of the season.

Coach Payne Schanski, a five-year staff member of Tenacity, also looks forward to watching his athletes compete in the upcoming weeks. The team’s success is largely attributable to his hard work in helping the players to both set and achieve their personal goals.

“It’s been incredible to have the same group for three years. I’ve watched them start as beginners, and now they’re getting really good,” he said of his team, all of whom he has trained and mentored for the entirety of their middle school careers.

“It’s been a really rewarding experience working with them. I’m excited to see what this year’s Crane Cup will hold for Curley.”

*Achievement points are a program of tennis and fitness goals that students set at the Curley. The goals have various levels of achievement, and an Achievement Wall in the Curley classroom tracks all students’ progress.