During my sophomore year at Great Valley High School, I made the varsity tennis team. I played third doubles, which is the lowest rank on the team, but nonetheless I was proud to be on the varsity squad. During the season, my partner and I won all the matches we were supposed to win and lost all the matches we were supposed to lose. We never pulled any upsets. Our team was second in the league going into the last meet. For our final match, we played against league leading and undefeated Unionville High School.
Unionville had been the dominant team in our league for a number of years. When I was a freshman, Great Valley lost to them 7-0. No one on our team won a set, let alone a handful of games. Most of our team went into the meet with a pessimistic attitude. I, on the other hand, was very excited for the match; I wanted to prove myself. My coach had moved me up to second doubles because I had been playing well leading up to the match. I didn’t want to let my team down.
Before the match started, we went through our normal warm-up drills with our opponents. They didn’t seem that impressive to me. The match started. Before I knew it, the first set was over. We had lost 6-0. None of our shots worked; the Unionville players hit the ball back faster and more accurately than us every time. My partner and I went back to our coach discouraged, but not defeated. Our coach told us simply to keep a positive attitude and try a different strategy: “Do nothing but lob shots.”
My partner and I went back out for the second set. We put the plan into action, and our invincible opponents seemed to have a chink in their armor. They were mystified by our constant barrage of lobs; they didn’t know what to do. They became flustered and started to make errors. We ran down every ball they hit and lobbed everything back. We started to rack up games and eventually won the set! This was the first time in recent memory that Great Valley had taken a set against Unionville.
By the time we had started the third and final set, the rest of the team had already lost. We were the only ones still playing, and all eyes were on us. Our team could not win the meet, but my partner and I wanted to win our match. We kept up with our strategy of lobbing the ball and outhustling our opponents, but Unionville recovered and raised their play to a higher level. We were down match point. I did not want to lose. The ball was hit towards me, but barely within my reach. I dove, sacrificing my body, to return the ball. I made contact with the ball and fell, scraping my knuckles. I looked up, but the ball didn’t make it over the net. We lost.
I was exhausted and hurt, but I still felt like a winner. I gave the match my best effort, and though we did not win, we did something the rest of the team could not do; we won a set and played a highly competitive match. I learned that in the face of any great challenge, there is always opportunity for success. Ultimately hard work and aspiration will pay off, and it will be possible to achieve all my goals.