The pumping beat of Taylor Swift’s hit song “Shake It Off” blasts through the City College tennis courts as the medal-winning 2014 Lick-Wilmerding Girls Varsity Tennis team hits ball after ball across the black nylon net. One player bends down like a crouching tiger and then springs up, smashing the ball with her racket and sending it across the barrier to her partner.
The team is at practice. They are adept, fast, and talented at their game. These victors have won numerous championships—both singles and doubles—for Lick-Wilmerding. On November 5, 2014 they won the team BCL championships and competed in the NCS Playoffs, Individual Playoffs, and the NCS Individuals.
The 2014 team is led by a strong band of senior captains: Julia Pollak ’15, Sarah Chess ’15, Yassi Roberts ’15, Isa Canlas ’15, Joelle Park ’15, and Clarissa Fung ’15.
In a recent meeting, the senior captains discussed how champions found a way.
Paper Tiger: Was it hard to adjust as freshmen on the varsity squad?
Isa: Yeah. It was really scary at first because my mentor was also on the team. The fall season tryouts are before school even starts, so you don’t really know who your teammates are. I became good friends with them, though. Maddie McBride ’13 gave me rides to school every day because she’d see me at the bus stop.
Clarissa: Yeah, they went out of their way to look out for us because we were the young people on the team, which I thought was nice.
PT: How do you think you are as captains? What do you wish you’d done differently? What were you most proud of?
Yassi: We’ve never had six tennis captains. Dividing up responsibilities was something that we had to learn to do and I think that we’ve done a good job with that. Something we could have worked on and something that can be worked on in the coming seasons is to be good communicators between the coach and the team. That’s something we struggled with a little bit - clarifying what the coach was trying to get across and what the team want to bring to practice and the game. But I think we did a really nice job as captains overall.
Julia: I think one thing that’s hard for a tennis team is that tennis is often seen as an individual sport, so as a captain, one thing I tried to work on was finding a way to turn this individual sport into a team sport and be the glue to unify our coach and everyone on the team. We had a big team this year, like twenty people, when only seven people can play. That was especially hard because it was hard making sure that everyone felt like they were contributing equally to the team, even if they didn’t see themselves playing every match. I think the captains did a good job creating spaces for people to find out how they could contribute.
Isa: I was really nervous coming into the season. I had some pretty low-lows for the past seasons; it was hard for me to legitimize myself, but you of have to put on your happy face.
Julia: I think I felt a pressure because Lupe Jacobson ’14 and Glenna Roberts ’14 did such a good job last year and we had such a good season
last year. It was the first time we were undefeated in the season, We won the championship. So transitioning into this year was hard. We knew we all had the same goal—which was to win the championship—but looking back on last year it had seemed pretty easy. It was hard motivating everyone, saying that you still have to put in the hard work to win. Our hard work did pay off; we beat Uni 6-1 in the championship. (Cheers)
Sarah: Going back to keeping your motivation up, Julia Pollak did this great thing; we got together as a team and we really talked about what we wanted to accomplish this season and we made this whole set of norms of what practice should be like and what we expect out of each team player and expect ourselves to uphold. That got us back on track and we recognized moment as a team that we needed to come together.
Clarissa: I think a concern was that the past two years we’ve had mainly the same people on the team. This year we got six new faces. It was a concern to keep unity throughout the team with these new people because all of us have been on the same team for three years.
PT: What was a favorite moment from this season?
Yassi: My favorite moment was the last practice for the season for league. Our coach had us sit around and pass around a sheet where we said three positive things about each person on the team. Getting that back, it was really, really nice and good to hear what you were contributing and what other people thought about how you were as a team player,a really good activity to write positive things about each player.
Joelle: I wouldn’t say this was the best moment of the season exactly, because winning was really awesome, but at the beginning of the season we had a bonding dinner; we all met and got Shanghai dumplings together. It was before we knew how the team dynamic was going to be. As captains we were nervous. It was exciting to see everyone interact and feel comfortable with each other. Seeing everyone’s potential at the beginning of the season was really awesome.
Clarissa: One of my happiest moments was when Jeanne Peabody ’18 and Frances Jacobson ’18 gave all the seniors gifts. It was the sweetest thing and I felt glad because we have a mainly all-senior team and it can be intimidating entering a varsity team like that. It sort of showed that Jeanne and Frankie felt a part of the team. It made me happy.
Isa: This is my favorite moment! I started a group chat with the juniors plus other people on the team to increase camaraderie, I just said, “This is something that we should work on, don’t forget about it.” I got mixed reactions at first. Then it was kind of infectious; the juniors were excited: “This is what the team’s about, this is the legacy we want to carry on.” The excitement spread to the sophomores, through me telling someone to be positive, but through example.
Julia: I have two moments. First one is blasting Tswizz. Taylor Swift has been a huge influence on our team. “Shake It Off” was in our promo video, but I think it also rang true to just being positive in the game. Just blasting Taylor Swift on the courts, in the cars—all that stuff was great. Also, I was unable to go to the Uni game because I was on the East Coast. I was really upset I couldn’t make it to the game, but I felt like I was there because everyone was texting me point by point. It made me appreciate the team so much, knowing that they cared about me enough to update me and send me a lot of pictures and textsven though I was across the country, 3,000 miles away,
Sarah: I feel like we did a really good job cheering each other on, especially during matches. Like “#blessed,” “you go girl.” We got some sibling cheering all the time—Jeanne and Catherine Peabody ’16. It really pumped me up and got me excited about everything that everyone else was doing.
PT: What was a challenge that you overcame during the season?
Yassi: I know a ton of us are seniors and we have a ton of work this semester and I know, for me, there was a point when I started slacking off and not going to practice as often. But I realized this was our last tennis season; tennis does mean a lot to me, and I love this team. It was at that point when Julia came up with the idea of making the list of our goals and what we were going to accomplish. After that I was able to contribute more of myself, come to practice more often, be more of a captain and be more assertive with the team. We knew this season wasn’t going to come easy for us.
Joelle: Along the same lines, I think towards the middle of the season we were sweeping everyone and it was not super challenging and the same people were playing every match. A lot of people who didn’t feel as much a part of the team started drifting away a little bit. People not in the consistent line up or underclassmen felt unnecessary. It created an unhealthy team dynamic because during practices people were just not trying. We couldn’t bond as a team and we couldn’t motivate people because they were not present. Towards the end of the season, all the seniors were like, “Oh, shoot, this is the last time probably playing on a tennis team” and the underclassmen were, “Oh, shoot, this is our last season being with these same people.” We pulled it together. “Yeah, let’s actually show up to practice and really appreciate our time together.”
The 2014 Girls Varsity Tennis team also included: Shivani Ananth ’15, Amanda Braitman ’15, Frances Jacobson ’18, Tanima Joshi ’17, Helena Kalman ’15, Clara Kelley ’15, Carolena Leon ’16, Jane Liu ’17, Sonia Martin ’16, Catherine Peabody ’16, Jeanne Peabody ’18, Caitlin Yu ’15, and coach Greg Hom.
Julia Pollak’s Motivational Quotes
NO REGRETS — Each game I remind myself (and my team) that no matter how I play, I want to make sure I have no regrets. I won’t be mad at myself if I lose, but I will be disappointed if I know that I could’ve hassled harder on a point or I didn’t try my best. As this is my last season playing tennis every point of every match was something I shouldn’t take for granted. Although I was personally not as victorious as last season, I’m happy to say I have no regrets. I played my hardest and I had a blast.
#BLESSED — This hashtag has been a motto on the court and on player’s social media. This word symbolizes how thankful I am for being a part of such a dedicated, hardworking, and fun team. For that reason I am so #blessed. Usually the little prayer emoji is used as well.
SHAKE IT OFF — Taylor Swift, Tswiz, Tswizzle whatever you want to call her. a symbol of our team Her album dropped in the middle of the season and if you came to our practices you were most likely blasting “Blank Space” or girls singing and dancing to “Bad Blood.” “Shake It Off” is something I tell my teammates when I see them getting frustrated when they make a mistake. Tennis is 90% mental, so in order to stay focused, it is important to not dwell on a previous mistake, but to stay in the present and focus on the current point. “Shake it off.”
ENJOY EVERY MOMENT — This is something my coach brought to my attention. Last year I took for granted that feeling of victory. During the finals this year, Frances and I were still playing our match even after the team had clenched the fourth game and we had won the championship. That’s when I took a moment aside, closed my eyes and took a deep breath I consciously told myself to enjoy this moment. There was NO better feeling than seeing my entire team watching our game. As we beat UNI, words cannot explain the feeling of all our teammates hugging after such a huge victory.
BRING YOUR BEST SELF FOR THAT DAY — In the midst of a busy social and academic life no one is going to be feeling 100% each day. Some days you do poorly on a math test or are stressing about college apps. No matter the circumstances, bring your best self for that day. When some days none of your shots go in, the best thing to do is just try your hardest, even if your best on Tuesday is not your best on Wednesday.