Sports Person of the Week
Serenson Finds Her Niche Between the Baselines
Emma Serenson made the jump from No. 3 doubles to No. 2 singles with the North Branford girls’ tennis team this spring, while also leading the T-Birds’ as one of the club’s senior captains. (Photo courtesy of Emma Serenson)
As she was looking for a second sport to play at North Branford High School, Emma Serenson was encouraged by tennis player Catie Dow to give the sport a shot. Emma went on to play both tennis and field hockey for the T-Birds and enjoyed competing for both teams, ultimately leading the girls’ tennis squad as a senior captain this spring.
“I wanted to play a different sport other than field hockey in high school. One of my friends played tennis, and she convinced me to play for the team,” says Emma. “Our team dynamic was amazing. They were really welcoming. Everyone was supportive, which helped me learn faster. I ended up loving the sport.”
After joining the T-Birds as a freshman, Emma spent the first part of that year at the JV level. However, by the end of the season, Emma was promoted to the No. 3 doubles team on varsity. Although she was learning a new sport on the fly, Emma felt more and more comfortable on the court with each practice and every match.
“It was kind of difficult at first. I was not used to it at all. I had to learn how to hold the racquet and how to swing,” Emma says. “But once you get the hang of it, it’s not as difficult as you initially think. After a few practices, I ended up getting the hang of it.”
After making the leap to varsity at the end of her freshman year, Emma mostly continued in her No. 3 doubles role as a sophomore, while occasionally seeing some time at the No. 2 spot. Much like the transition to tennis altogether, Emma felt nervous when she first joined the varsity ranks, but things started to come naturally to her as she gained more experience.
“It was difficult. I was just playing JV. But since our team was small, I had the opportunity to play varsity. Of course, I was nervous. I hadn’t played a varsity game before,” says Emma. “By the end of the season and playing varsity more, I got the hang of it and got more comfortable in that spot.”
Following her freshman season, Emma began taking tennis lessons at the Madison Racquet & Swim Club. When her junior season was canceled due to COVID-19, Emma had to exclusively use those training sessions in order to improve her game. When she came back for her senior season, Emma felt that she had become a much better all-around tennis player.
“I’ve definitely improved a lot. When I first started playing, I had no idea how to play. After that year, I started doing clinics during the offseason. I’ve done that every year since,” Emma says. “You can hone your skills in and improve yourself. Doing those clinics has helped me improve as a singles player and get my techniques down.”
After playing doubles her first two years, Emma entered her senior season as the Thunderbirds’ No. 2 singles player this spring. Emma found that going from doubles to singles was a huge transition, but one that wound up reaping great rewards for her.
“It was a different transition. In doubles, you have another partner and you have to stay in your positions. In singles, you have to play all over the court,” says Emma. “It was easier for me to play singles. I was able to move around and focus on where I was moving. I didn’t have to rely on someone else.”
Aside from playing a different spot in the lineup, Emma entered her senior season as a captain with fellow senior Carly Villano. Emma says that both she and Villano have dedicated a lot of time to tennis and that they both liked helping out North Branford’s younger athletes as captains.
“We’ve both put a lot into the sport, and we have a lot of dedication to it,” Emma says. “As captains, we were able to run the team together. We were able to help everyone improve.”
Emma also joined North Branford’s field hockey team in her freshman year. Emma, a defender who has been playing field hockey since 6th grade, says that competing in both sports helped her learn how to handle any game situation, as well as how to dig deep and battle through adversity.
After she graduates from North Branford, Emma will attend UConn to pursue a degree in environmental science. She plans on continuing to play tennis at either the club level or just for fun. As she looks back at her time with the T-Birds, Emma appreciates the fact that she found a sport that was the perfect fit for her.
“It’s nice that I was able to do this and have that love for something. Before tennis, I would play sports, but after tennis, I realized that this was my sport,” says Emma. “I put time and effort into it. I’m proud that I was able to be a tennis player.”