Ciarcia Makes Crucial Contributions as a Junior
The challenge of playing in high-pressure matches can either give you nerves or provide you with the type of motivation that you’ve never experienced before. As a member of the Westbrook girls’ tennis team, Ava Ciarcia thrives under the best competition that she can get.
Ava recently completed her junior season as a member of the Westbrook girls’ tennis team, playing No. 4 singles for the Knights. Ava took on some formidable foes when Westbrook faced its biggest rivals in the Shoreline Conference throughout the year. Ava welcomed the challenge of supporting the seniors who led the way, and her contributions helped the Knights go on a memorable run to the Class S state final.
One of Ava’s biggest moments of the season came when Westbrook played Holy Cross in the semifinals of the Class S State Tournament. Ava won her match by a 6-3, 6-1 score to help the Knights defeat a higher-seeded team. It meant a lot to Ava to pick up a point that helped Westbrook win the match and advance to the state championship.
“We weren’t favored to win the match. It was actually on the day of prom, so I was rushing around a lot, but I played probably the best match I’ve ever played,” says Ava. “The team, we all hugged afterwards, because we really all surprised ourselves. Overall, probably the best match for everybody.”
Ava grew up as a soccer player and continues to play that sport for Westbrook. However, when she started high school, Ava wanted to try out a new sport, too, so she signed up to play tennis with the Knights.
“Up until a couple of years ago, soccer was all I had known, so I really wanted to try something new,” Ava says. “I decided to go with tennis, because I remembered doing a summer camp when I was in 5th grade playing tennis and it was really fun, so I decided I’d like to try that again.”
As she joined the tennis team, Ava knew that the program had a longstanding tradition of success. Ava was excited about competing for the team and wanted to help Westbrook make more history on the court.
“I had played soccer with the same girls for years and years, and I wanted to branch out and make new friends. I knew that if it was a successful team, everyone must be really close, and I was right,” says Ava. “I think that’s the reason why it’s such a successful team—because everyone’s so tight like a family.”
Ava has grown into a solid singles player throughout her career with the Knights. This year, primarily competing out of the No. 4 singles spot, Ava bolstered a lineup that featured a group of seniors who wanted to end their Westbrook careers on a high note. Head Coach Paula Fitzgerald says that Ava’s contributions proved crucial for the Knights.
“We had a strong group of graduating seniors who knew they alone couldn’t pull off the successes enjoyed the past two, and it took a few underclassmen like Ava to shore up the team,” Coach Fitzgerald says. “Ava is also a great person that adds a fun and enthusiastic atmosphere to the team.”
Ava and her teammates handled the pressure quite well this year, finishing the campaign with an overall record of 18-3. Westbrook went 15-2 during the regular season prior to competing in the Class S State Tournament. The Knights then earned wins versus Lyman Memorial, Shepaug Valley, and Holy Cross in states to advance to a championship matchup with top-seeded Old Lyme. Westbrook took a 4-3 loss in the match, but Ava felt proud of her team for giving the Wildcats everything they could handle in a highly competitive contest.
“I felt really confident, and I was very happy that I was ending the season like this,” says Ava, who finished her season with a winning record. “I knew we were going to have a tough match in the finals against Old Lyme, because they’ve always been our toughest opponent. Although we didn’t win in the finals, we lost 4-3, which was our closest match against Old Lyme and their closest match with another opponent. I think we all played amazing.”
The obstacles that Ava has overcome during her journey through high school athletics have made her into a better tennis player. As she starts gearing up for her senior year, Ava knows that she’s gained a lot as a result of the stiff competition she faced as a junior.
“There’s a lot of pressure and there’s a huge mental aspect to the whole game, but especially for singles players,” Ava says. “I definitely struggled with that at first and that would interfere with my game, but I worked on that throughout the season and I had a very strong ending to my season in states.”
Along with playing soccer and tennis, Ava is involved in several extra curriculars in Westbrook. Ava is member of the Students Against Destructive Decisions Club, the Shoreline Sportsmanship Council, and the National Honor Society, in addition to doing peer counseling at the middle and elementary schools.
Ava feels enthusiastic about what’s to come in her senior year at Westbrook High School. Ava has been named a senior captain for the tennis team and looks forward to taking on more responsibility as guides the Knights.
“Next year, I’m excited to be a captain and to be a good captain for our team,” says Ava. “I want to uphold our record, which means staying really close as a team and including the new players, because I think that’s the main reason as to why we’re such a good team.”