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Kara Stevens enjoyed a nice two-year career as a No. 1 doubles player for the North Haven girls’ tennis team, earning the title of captain as a senior this year. (Photo courtesy of Kara Stevens )
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Kara Stevens had never played tennis on a competitive level prior to attending high school. Kara played basketball and softball while growing up, but it wasn’t until her freshman year that she decided to pick up a racket and try her hand at tennis. Although she was new to the sport, Kara learned fast and earned her spot as one half of the No. 1 doubles tandem for the North Haven girls’ tennis team as a sophomore. By the time she was a senior, Kara had been named one of North Haven’s captains.
Kara originally began her tennis career at Sacred Heart Academy as a freshman. Following her freshman year, Kara transferred to North Haven to join Head Coach Bob Migliorini’s squad. Kara quickly cemented her spot at the No. 1 doubles position and saw her confidence flourish throughout her sophomore campaign.
“At Sacred Heart, I wasn’t really looked at. I wasn’t playing any matches, and I wasn’t getting any attention,” says Kara, who recently graduated from North Haven. “When I was still at Sacred Heart, Coach Bob reached out to me and said there were a lot of opportunities on the team for next year. When I transferred to North Haven, Coach Bob really looked at me and realized I was a good player.”
Kara admits that jumping right into No. 1 doubles as a sophomore was intimidating, especially since she had minimal experience. However, Kara fared well while teaming up with Katrina Nadolny that year and then continued to thrive alongside Zoe Bowerman in her junior season. Kara says that joining forces with Nadolny and Bowerman, who were both seniors at the time, helped her make rapid progress between the baselines.
“I definitely was always looking to them and trying to follow in their footsteps,” says Kara. “They obviously knew what they were doing for two years before me. They both helped me along the way and pushed me to be a better player.”
Bowerman was a senior captain when she teamed up with Kara. Bowerman saw Kara’s talent right away, and the two of them went on to form a great relationship both on and off the court.
“Playing with Kara, she was a really great teammate and friend, which really contributed to our success,” says Bowerman. “Kara and I had been on the team together a year prior, so we had played together. I knew what her game was like, and she knew what mine was like. It was easy when we started playing together. Being friends, it took the pressure off just winning. We won together and found success together.”
Bowerman adds that she saw a lot of leadership qualities in Kara throughout the 2019 season, qualities that she knew would make Kara a quality captain down the line. Heading into her senior year, Kara earned her role as a captain with fellow seniors Anna Wootton and Claire Looney. Even though North Haven wasn’t able to compete due to COVID-19, Kara says that she feels proud to have been selected as a captain.
“It really means a lot to me. It means my coach views me as a leader, my teammates view me as a leader,” Kara says. “I really appreciate everything they’ve done throughout the years. My coach, my teammates, and my fellow captains have always been there.”
Kara spent a lot of time working with Coach Migliorini at North Haven Health & Racquet Club in order to sharpen her skills. She would also play tennis with her parents, Mark and Tina. Kara says that both of her parents are big role models for her and that playing against her father helped bring out her competitive side.
“My dad was the one to play with me over the summer and always push me and support me,” says Kara. “My dad is a very sporty guy, and I was always trying to beat him.”
Later this year, Kara will be attending Syracuse University, where she is going to major in communication sciences and disorders. Kara won’t be playing tennis at Syracuse, although she hopes to continue with the sport recreationally. As Kara moves on to college, Coach Migliorini says that he enjoyed watching her become a solid player and an exemplary leader at North Haven.
“It’s been an enjoyable experience. We were really excited when Kara came to North Haven,” Migliorini says. “Kara has been a great doubles player for the past two years. She’s a great role model. Over her two years, the other girls aspired to be at her level.”
Kara has come a long way since the first time she stepped on a tennis court. Kara came to North Haven with virtually no tennis experience, but in just two seasons, she became a player who was in the lineup for every match and who was always willing to help the teammates around her.
“I’ve been pushed a lot over the years in tennis, and I think I really improved. I never really improved in a sport as much as I have in this one,” says Kara. “Starting only three years ago, and I’m already a captain on the team, playing varsity doubles. It’s a major accomplishment for me.”
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