Leiberman Makes Great Debut as a Freshman
Most freshmen athletes look to use their first season of high school sports as a way to get acclimated and learn the ropes with their new program. However, Bryce Leiberman accomplished much more than that in his debut campaign with the Haddam-Killingworth boys’ tennis team this spring.
Bryce established himself as a top player in H-K’s singles lineup during his freshman year. As the 2022 season unfolded, Bryce also displayed the signs of a budding leader while igniting a big-time spark for a growing Cougars’ program.
Bryce’s love for tennis started taking shape after he was introduced to the game by his father at age 10. Bryce’s dad was hoping that his son would find his passion on the courts, and those hopes quickly started coming to fruition.
“He took me to the tennis courts one day, and it was a great experience for me, because I just picked up a racquet and a ball. I just found it was something I was really passionate about,” says Bryce.
“Ever since then, tennis has been something that I’ve tried dedicating myself to as much as possible, and it’s very rewarding for me, especially this season,” he says.
Bryce’s bond with sophomore captain Eddie White helped his transition to high school tennis go smoothly. Bryce and White both played tennis in middle school and were anticipating their first year together with the Cougars. White’s leadership as an underclassman inspired Bryce to act as a leader during his freshman season.
“It was a real learning experience for me playing with him. There’s a lot everybody on the team can learn from him,” Bryce says of White. “Eddie really sets a great example and tries to lead the other people on the team as much as possible. I just try to follow his lead and try to help other people, because that’s how we make our team better and not just perform better individually.”
Head Coach Rod Pakus says that Bryce joined the H-K boys’ tennis team at just the right time. Pakus feels that Bryce’s talents as a tennis player, coupled with his intangibles, are making a big difference in the progression of the program.
“Bryce is just what our team needed at this juncture in our development. He is a talented, caring guy who just has the innate ability to not only communicate, but to tailor that effort to the individual,” says Pakus. “Bryce has an excellent foundation as a tennis player who also takes direction well and is able to incorporate any suggestions into his game.”
Bryce saw his fair share of success in his freshman season at H-K. Bryce played both No. 1 and 2 singles for the Cougars, posting a record of 10-3 during the regular season, after which he participated in the Shoreline Conference 1-2 Singles Tournament.
Bryce embraces the mental and physical battles that come with being a tennis player. His ability to handle pressure as a freshman has been impressive. Bryce mostly focuses on the mental component of the game in order to improve his all-around play.
“For me, tennis is a unique game, because you kind of have to find motivation within yourself. There’s no timeouts in tennis. You have to problem solve by yourself,” Bryce says. “This is a game of beating myself. I’m only ever playing against myself. I’m only trying to improve upon how I’ve done in the past.”
Bryce’s efforts away from the court have also helped him improve his game. Bryce takes time to develop strategies that enable him to succeed whenever he steps between the baselines.
“I spend a lot of time off of the court studying the game, watching, and reading. It’s really important to me to not only understand the physical aspect of it, but the mental aspect is 90 percent of the game,” says Bryce. “Believing in myself has not come easy, because I’m always tentative on the court. I’ve tried to gain that belief and become a student of the game.”
Following a string of strong performances in the regular season, Bryce competed in the Shoreline Conference 1-2 Singles Tournament as the No. 8 seed. Bryce claimed a 6-1, 6-2 victory in his first match before taking a 6-2, 6-0 defeat against the top seed in the quarterfinals. Despite the loss, Bryce learned a lot from participating in postseason play and knows that the experience will help perform even better next year.
“It was a really tough match and I lost it, but one thing that motivates me for next year is keeping up, being consistent, and winning more matches,” Bryce says. “I had a pretty good winning percentage this year, but if I can improve and get more match experience under my belt, I think it will only get better.”
Only a freshman, Bryce possesses many qualities that make him a player to watch in the Shoreline Conference in coming seasons. Bryce’s love for tennis is unique, and his constant drive to get better is inspiring. Bryce is hoping that his efforts to improve will lead to a solid season for both himself and the Cougars as a sophomore.
“It’s independent more than others, and that’s fun to me. I love setting these expectations and working and then finally having this pay off,” says Bryce. “That’s really what motivates me. I want to do well in this conference and, hopefully, get even farther next year.”