Pat LeGates wanted to prove to his coach how much his tennis game had improved since last spring and so he did something not many sophomores have the guts to do: He challenged his coach to a match. Pat didn't see any varsity competition as a freshman, but felt he had made huge strides by taking lessons throughout the offseason, and wanted to show Coach Don Hurley that he belonged in North Haven's lineup.
"I wanted to show coach how hard I had worked and that I had potential," says Pat. "I didn't want to be overlooked."
Pat and Hurley didn't exactly engage in a Nadal-Djokovic five-setter as they just played three games, yet Pat prevailed in all three and displayed to his coach that he had indeed progressed in all aspects of his game, saying, "I think I caught coach by surprise."
What happened next surprised everyone as Pat not only earned a starting spot by besting his coach, he kept moving up the ranks to ultimately become the Indians' No. 1 singles player, posting an overall record of 10-7 en route to Most Improved honors and captaincy for next spring.
"Pat showed me he was an aggressive player who had improved with everything, from his forehand to his backhand to his mental approach," says Hurley. "Pat has a love for tennis, a desire to win, and a fire that he carries on and off the court. He also has raw talent with great hand-eye coordination and picks up things quickly."
Pat first picked up a racquet at age eight, although it wasn't until last summer that he started approaching tennis more seriously after watching from the sidelines his freshman year. Pat took several lessons at North Haven Health & Racquet and came into the recent season with confidence and a goal to earn the No. 3 singles position. Pat did play one match at the three-spot, yet it wasn't long before he was atop the Indians' lineup, a slot in which he won three matches.
"There's no way I could have guessed I'd play No. 1 singles this year and I'm happy about the progress I made from last year to now," Pat says. "It shows that when you're motivated to do something, you can do it if you work hard. I took tennis much more seriously this year and learned a lot about the game."
The proof of Pat's progression was evidenced by his biggest victory of the campaign, a three-set triumph against a Sheehan competitor in just his second match at No. 1. Pat dropped the first set 1-6, but rallied back to take the second 6-4, and then won the final frame, 7-6 (7-5).
"I think I got into his head a little bit in the second set," says Pat. "The mental game is so important in tennis. It can really make or break you."
Says Hurley: "That match was over two-and-a-half hours and Pat prevailed due to his physical fitness and because he wasn't going to take no for an answer."
Of course, not everything went smoothly for North Haven this season as the Indians won just two matches. However, Pat is already looking forward to captaining the squad with David King next spring and is optimistic that the program can return to its winning ways of 2011.
"We all wanted to do better than we did this season, but still had a lot of guys who gave 100 percent and improved with every match," says Pat. "So I think next year will be a promising season for us."