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Senior captain Mikayla Raffone won nine matches while playing the No. 3 singles position for East Haven girls’ tennis team this spring. (Photo courtesy of Mikayla Raffone )
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Mikayla Raffone had no experience as a tennis player prior to her freshman year at East Haven High School. One of Mikayla’s teachers, East Haven girls’ tennis Head Coach Dave Oshana, suggested that she sign up for the team, and it turned out to be a great decision. Mikayla recently completed a four-year career with the Yellowjackets while leading the squad as a senior captain this spring.
“He convinced me to try out for the team, and I just went for it. I had never held a racquet in my hand before that,” Mikayla says. “I’ve always played softball on the side and it was difficult, because I swung the racquet like a bat. It was difficult to get used to the mechanics, but coach was there and taught me how to play.”
Mikayla’s dedication to become a better tennis player paid off when she won nine matches for East Haven during her senior season. Coach Oshana says that Mikayla brings an excellent work ethic to the court and serves as a positive role model for all her teammates.
“She gives it her all each and every day and, as a coach, that is all I can ask for in a player,” says Oshana. “Mikayla’s hard work landed her a spot in the singles lineup. She’s worked hard over her four-year span on the team and has grown into an excellent tennis player with a powerful forehand.”
It means a lot to Mikayla that she notched those nine victories, especially since she missed most of her junior season due to a knee injury. Mikayla also served as one of the team’s captains this year, and she enjoyed lending support to her fellow Easties.
“Being a leader isn’t about being the one in charge. It’s not telling people what to do. It’s about building friendships with the other players on the team and helping them grow to be skilled players, too,” Mikayla says. “I don’t like anybody being left out. I’m a very selfless player.”
Mikayla displayed her selflessness by always staying prepared to move around the Yellowjackets’ lineup. Mikayla played both singles and doubles for East Haven and felt happy to contribute on either court.
“Doubles is more about teamwork, where you have to work well with a partner. Singles is more of about your own head and there is nobody to blame but yourself. I liked both,” says Mikayla. “I liked in doubles how I can pick up my teammates, and they can also pick me up, and I like singles, because it’s me playing my own match.”
While Mikayla saw time on both circuits during her career, she settled in nicely to the No. 3 singles position in her senior season.
“Since I didn’t play my junior year, coach asked me where I’d rather play this year. I told him I’ll do whatever was needed, so he put me [at No. 3 singles],” says Mikayla. “It was definitely different, and I felt like I was starting from scratch, but it benefited me, because I was able to have more teammates watch me and help me with what I was doing. I’m a team player, and I liked having my teammates right behind my back to tell me what I was doing right and wrong.”
Mikayla says that she plays tennis to have fun. Although she’s played her last match for the Yellowjackets, Mikayla plans to continue having good times on the tennis court for years to come.
“I’m not a super-competitive person, so I just try to do this for fun,” Mikayla says. “I feel tennis keeps you in great shape, and it helps me bond with my dad and my sister. I can even play with old teammates. I think tennis will help me keep in touch with everyone.”
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