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08/02/2023 11:50 AM

Bradstreet Boasted Talent as Resounding Rookie for Hand Tennis

Hand girls’ tennis team freshman and No. 2 singles player Loden Bradstreet burst onto the scene with an impressive 20-3 record this past campaign for the Class M state champion Tigers. Photo courtesy of Loden Bradstreet

When it came to finding her proper avenue in athletics, the right route for Loden Bradstreet was always, forever, and only tennis. And she made that quite evident by blazing a big trail for herself as a freshman.

Loden moved from Missouri to Connecticut with her family at the age of 4. Once in the Nutmeg State, she took up all sorts of different sports but tennis was the one that proved true to her.

The Hand girls’ tennis team No. 2 singles player posted a 20-3 record this year as a freshman, with nine of those wins being 6-0, 6-0 shutouts, as the Tigers captured the Class M state crown. Loden additionally participated in the Guilford Collegiate Showcase at the Guilford Racquet Club.

“I just felt tennis was the sport that fit me the best and was for me. I like the sprinting involved with it and the friends I have made for it,” says Loden. “Coming into the year, I was a bit nervous, but I played volleyball for Hand in the fall, and then I saw how team sports worked, which helped ease my nerves for the tennis season. I was nervous with people watching me play, but I loved it as the year went on, and the season was the best thing to happen to me this year.”

Speaking more to those apprehensions and anxieties, Loden notes how she actually welcomes the solo spotlight on the court. Yet through the encouragement and emotional support of her teammates, along with a sound mental game, Loden was able to improve her tactical approach and endurance.

“I have always chosen singles over doubles because I don’t have to worry about another person. I know my strengths and weaknesses and can rely on myself and change my own strategies,” Loden says. “But in singles, it can be hard because you get tired very easily and you have to last about two hours for a match. But my stamina did grow, and my team helped me get through my nerves. They gave me a pep talk, and I just replayed what they said in my head. I also took deep breaths before every match.”

Walking between the baselines of a high school venue for the first time, Loden knew she had her old reliable strokes, though she widened her arsenal as she swung on throughout the spring while simultaneously employing new game plans.

“From when I started tennis at age 4, I always loved my forehand; I just love hitting the ball hard. My serve has also been a favorite and go-to shot for me,” says Loden. “But my backhand got better this year out of nowhere. My serve improved a lot, too, and I tried different strategies to make it better.”

Playing on the state’s center court as a rookie, Loden took in all of the atmosphere and local media and paparazzi, and performed at her peak despite the magnitude of the moment. She aims to bring the Tigers right back there to defend their crown for years to come.

“Winning the state title and being at the state final was a whole different experience for me,” Loden says. “All of the spectators, the cameramen, and reporters put on some pressure, but it motivated me to play better, and it was one of my better matches for the year. We will hopefully make states again and continue to bond together as a team.”

Only one year into her Tigers’ tennis tenure, Head Coach John Gage explains the best is still yet to come as Loden displays a talent, class, and leadership well beyond her years.

“With punishing groundstrokes from the baseline, an incredible serve, and an ability to wear down her opponents with her consistency, Loden is one of the most talented players in the SCC,” says Gage. “Only a freshman, I can’t wait to see what she does in her next three seasons for our team. Not only is she already playing top-notch tennis, but she has impeccable sportsmanship, is a joy to be around, and is a terrific team player, always supporting the other girls on and off the court. Simply put, she is a coach’s dream.”

In reflecting on her meteoric rise through the ranks not only within the Hand team but also the SCC, Loden explains that she parlayed the initial streak of 6-love, 6-love triumphs into long-standing success and showing major heart against her rivals.

“I started off the year playing some teams that I did not know that well. But then I won my first couple of matches 6-0, 6-0, and then those matches were a big boost for me and built up my confidence,” says Loden. “I had a hard match against [Class L champion] Guilford, and it was the third time we played them this year. But I knew what to prepare for, because I grew up playing my opponent Kallie Kagan. I just kept telling myself that I got this and to look at how far I had come this year as the season went on.”