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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

July 25, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Sports

Third sport’s the charm for tennis squad’s versatile athlete

Many ambitious high school athletes dream about the day a college will recruit them. Some of them will be lucky enough to be contacted, but most will never be recruited. In the rarest of situations, a skilled athlete will get recruited to a college for two sports.

Sophomore Alyssa Steinweis is a special case study. Though she was recruited to play soccer and track for the Bombers before her freshman year, Steinweis now competes for a different team entirely. She has instead found her niche with the tennis team.

Steinweis enjoyed success during her high school career in New Brunswick, N.J., in both soccer and track, leading her soccer team to a state runner-up finish and earning second team all-area honors as a runner in track.

As a freshman, Steinweis contributed to the Bombers’ varsity soccer team, tallying one assist during the team’s run to the NCAA national semifinal game.

But a seemingly inconsequential decision during class registration for her second semester would change the course of Steinweis’ athletic career.

“Going into the second semester, I wanted to take a PALS course,” Steinweis said. “I’ve always wanted to go back to tennis.”

Steinweis had played tennis since she was four years old but quit in seventh grade to pursue soccer more aggressively. But when she registered for the intermediate tennis PALS course, she met instructor Bill Austin, who is also the head coach of the women’s tennis team.

Austin was taken aback by Steinweis’ skill and athletic ability. After only a couple weeks in the class, he invited her to come out and practice with the varsity team.

“She hit the ball well, and she had great energy,” Austin said. “So I invited her to practice. She came out and loved it. The team loved her, and she stayed the rest of the semester.”

Steinweis said joining the team allowed her to rediscover her love for tennis. Tennis became her primary athletic priority, and she quit track before the outdoor season had even begun to continue playing tennis throughout the spring.

Steinweis continued to practice tennis over the summer, but since she was planning on returning to the soccer team for the fall semester, she chose to focus more on soccer. However, when classes resumed, Austin was surprised when Steinweis told him that she wanted to play tennis full time.

“I totally expected her to be playing soccer this fall,” Austin said.

For Steinweis, tennis was the refreshing break from soccer that she so desperately needed.

“I got a little burnt out of soccer and decided to do tennis full time,” Steinweis said. “I just wasn’t loving [soccer] as much as I used to.”

But at the beginning, Steinweis was far from being the star of the tennis team. She had never played in a real match before, and she admits to not completely knowing the rules during her first competition.

“I had never been in a tournament before and had never played an actual match coming into IC,” Steinweis said. “I didn’t know when to switch sides. If my opponent was looking to switch sides, I figured I was supposed to too.”

Fortunately for Steinweis, however, her soccer experience trumped her initial nerves during her first match.

“I was really nervous for my first match, but because of soccer, I feel like I’m fearless,” Steinweis said. “I don’t care if I get hit with the ball or anything, I just love being a competitor.”

That competitive energy is what Steinweis’ teammates like most about her game. Fellow sophomore Allison Vizgaitis said Steinweis’ soccer experience has helped her with her tennis game and will continue to in the future.

“She has a certain kind of intensity,” Vizgaitis said. “You can tell she’s a soccer player. On the court she has a lot of energy. She’ll definitely be a leader once she’s an upperclassman.”

For now, Steinweis said she is happy playing the sport that has rekindled her passion for athletic competition. She said she loves tennis not only because of the friends she’s made, but because she considers it to be a combination of soccer and track.

“The coach and the team are definitely my favorite part of playing tennis,” Steinweis said. “But I also like that there’s a combination of soccer and track. It’s kind of a balance between the two, where it’s not totally a team sport, but it’s also not totally an individual sport. I picked the perfect medium.”