Chris Negrini, Assistant Sports Editor
Old Saybrook High School graduate Katie Costa (Old Saybrook, Conn./Old Saybrook Senior) is making quite a name for herself as a Division II tennis player at Saint Michael's College in Colchester, Vermont. As a senior captain, Katie is proving a versatile player and a supportive leader for the Purple Knights. She currently sports a record of 4-2 playing both singles and doubles.
Katie believes that her responsibilities as a captain go beyond the court. The senior leader is always ready to provide moral and emotional support for her teammates.
"I always want my teammates to know I'm a shoulder for support and an ear to listen. It's important to have a leader who is not the coach and is the same age. Then players feel they can tell you something they may not want to tell the coach," says Katie. "I maintain a positive attitude and try not to be upset, no matter how I'm playing. You have to have a positive outlook and cheer everybody on."
Katie has played singles throughout her tennis career. In her junior year at Old Saybrook, she earned All-Shoreline Conference Second Team honors on her way to reaching the semifinals in the Shoreline Conference Tournament.
Katie thought she would be playing singles exclusively for the Saint Michael's women's team, but she's also been seeing time in the doubles lineup. While competing alongside a teammate took some getting used to, Katie began to appreciate the responsibility of playing for her colleague on the court.
"When I came on to the team at Saint Michael's, I was obsessed with singles. All I wanted to do was play singles, but now I'm obsessed with doubles. After playing it, I've definitely changed as a player," Katie says. "When I first started playing with another person, I would feel bad if I messed up. Now in that aspect, I love playing with someone and having that motivation behind me. I learned it's not a fault thing. Our good points and our bad points belong to both of us."
Katie likes having flexibility in her game so she can mesh with different partners, but she also tries to maintain some continuity in her approach. Part of that strategy is playing to her stronger forehand stroke.
"I usually play the same side each time, so I can work more with my forehand side. It ends up working out, because my partner usually wants to be backhand side," says Katie. "Personally, I have more confidence in my forehand, especially being up at the net. But I definitely can do both. Playing in a match, I would prefer to do forehand, though."
Katie has played with a variety of doubles partners at St. Michael's, and she feels that helps her adapt to different styles. It also helps the younger players to have Katie as a mentor on the court.
"We've changed it quite a bit, and my most solid partners right now are some of the freshmen on the team. We are rotating them into matches, but I still played with some fellow seniors, too," Katie says. "I don't mind it at all. I enjoy playing with different styles of players each time. It's interesting playing with first years, because they want advice, and I just tell them to be confident in their game. We make all these different racquet-bump celebrations."
However, it isn't all cheers and celebrations for Katie on the court. When there's a point that needs to be won, Katie gets down to business between the baselines.
"When I'm on the court, I get into a focus mode where I know where the ball is, where I'm moving to, and where the ball is going to be," she says. "My mind just switches, and it helps to jump up and down and move my legs a lot when I'm on the line."
Saint Michael's Head Coach Mark Ellingson has seen Katie's progression as a player. He says that her relentless pursuit of every point helps set a positive tone for the Purple Knights.
"Katie grinds and never gives up on a point. We're better than we've normally been, and her growth has coincided with our growth as a team," Ellingson says. "She works so hard in everything, whether it be conditioning or practice. She's a positive person and a fantastic teammate and player."
Katie is hoping to pursue a career that involves her major of environmental studies. Katie has already put her knowledge to good use on campus, and she may look to expand that experience during the summer to see where it leads.
"I don't have a definite plan yet, but I think I'd like to stay in Burlington for the summer with a non-profit or something. I know there is a lot of opportunity here. I'm studying environmental studies, so it's the perfect place for that. The surrounding area is mountains, and the city is right on Lake Champlain," says Katie. "I'm part of the school's Green Up Club, which is a sustainability club, and I'm a core leader this year. We educate around campus about what it means to be sustainable."