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07/01/2021 12:00 AM

Villano’s Glad That She Gave Tennis a Shot

Carly Villano loved playing doubles for the T-Birds and especially enjoyed leading the team as a senior captain this spring. Photo courtesy of Carly Villano

Carly Villano started playing tennis as a sophomore at North Branford High School, and she quickly developed a passion for being on the court. Carly continued to grow as both an athlete and a leader during her tenure with the T-Birds, ultimately becoming a senior captain for the 2021 spring season.

In her sophomore year, Carly’s friend Sydney Constantinidi, who was a captain at the time, convinced her to try out for the North Branford girls’ tennis team. Carly decided to give it a shot and found that she really enjoyed the sport.

“She really encouraged me to play, and I thought I’d try it. I ended up falling in love with it,” says Carly. “I started out not even knowing how to hold a racquet. But I started playing a lot more and enjoying it a lot more.”

Carly played doubles at the JV level for North Branford as a sophomore. Carly’s first year with the Thunderbirds helped her learn new skills and meet a group of teammates who she now considers come of her best friends.

“It was fun. It was good to meet new people I would have never met before. They’re some of my closest friends now,” Carly says. “I got to learn new skills that I’m going to take along with me for the rest of my life through tennis. I’m glad I did it.”

As Carly was starting to find her footing on the court, she saw her junior season get canceled due to COVID-19. Although she was unable to compete at the high school level, Carly stayed committed to improving her game. Carly and some of her friends began doing clinics at North Haven Health & Racquet Club and the Madison Racquet & Swim Club, further strengthening their bonds as they continued sharpening their skills.

When she returned as a senior, Carly made the jump to the varsity level and split time between the No. 2 and No. 3 doubles positions. Unfortunately, shortly into the season, Carly was forced to go into quarantine and wound up missing most of the campaign. While she couldn’t be on the court at times, Carly did everything she could to stay connected with her teammates, and was able get back out there in time for Senior Night.

“I wanted to stay connected with the team. I’d always ask after their matches how everybody did, no matter good or bad. No matter what, I was proud of the girls,” says Carly. “The girls are amazing. They have always been so kind and lovable. I was quarantined, but I was still there.”

Carly’s doubles partner for the season was fellow senior Alyssa Nero. When the T-Birds hosted their Senior Night match, the duo took the court to play No. 3 doubles for North Branford. Nero says that it was easy to compete alongside Carly due to her partner’s demeanor, along with the strong chemistry that the two of them built.

“Playing with Carly was really great. She is a really easygoing person, and playing with her was a lot of fun,” says Nero. “We were always able to maintain good communication and chemistry while playing together.”

Carly served as a captain for North Branford alongside fellow senior Emma Serenson this spring. Carly liked leading the team and helping her fellow Thunderbirds in tandem with Serenson.

“It was such a great opportunity to have. It gave me more confidence and showed me how to become a really good leader for the girls,” Carly says. “Working alongside Emma was very fun. She’s just a very funny, very kind person. It was great.”

Carly also joined the North Branford girls’ soccer squad as a freshman and stayed with the team through her senior year. While the two sports have their differences, Carly was able to grow as an overall athlete by playing both.

“Soccer definitely helped me keep my eye on the ball. You have to keep the ball and see where it’s going in soccer,” says Carly, who will attend Middlesex Community College and pursue a degree in psychology. “Same thing in tennis. You have to see where the ball is and follow through with your swing. I’ve definitely brought traits from both into each other.”

As she graduates from North Branford, Carly feels grateful that she decided to play tennis at the high school. Carly says that the sport will always be a big part of her life.

“Once you stop being consistent, you lose all your skills. If it’s something you love, you have to be consistent,” Carly says. “Tennis is something I plan on doing for the rest of my life. I’m glad I had the opportunity to fall in love with it.”