There is a focused, dedicated expression on her face. With her left hand, she tosses the tennis ball into the air. She tightly grips the tennis racket with her right hand and swings it to meet the soaring ball. Senior Nicholle Torres is unstoppable.
Torres began playing tennis in Weston, Florida, when she was 12 years old. Originally on the varsity swim team, Torres decided to try a new sport. She said that after taking a couple of tennis lessons “I realized I wanted to fully commit myself to tennis and try to become the best that I can be.” Because she was twelve years old and just beginning tennis, Torres had to train every day after school for an hour and a half. The other girls on the team had been playing since age six, so Torres had to “catch up to their level.” Now Torres trains six days a week for three hours a day.
Varsity Coach Mr. Bradley Krauz said, “Nicholle is all tennis, all the time. She leaves school early to train and then comes back to be at team practice. After team practice, or a match, she goes back out to play more tennis.” He added, “Her dedication to working at her game all the time is why she has improved more and more every year.”
In her sophomore year, the year she moved to Great Neck, Torres went to States for doubles with former senior Emma Brenner. Together, they made it to Round 16. As a junior, Torres returned to States. She said, “I went for singles and I came in fifth and won the Sportsmanship Award.” This tribute is given to the player who shows the most respect to her opponents on and off the court.
Torres admires Rafael Nadal, especially his composure on and off the court. Torres describes Nadal as humble throughout and after his matches. “Rafa is a very kind person on and off the court, and I try to emulate his extremely focused attitude while he is playing.” She added, “We even share the same birthday, so for that reason, we are somehow connected!”
Due to Hurricane Sandy, it was difficult for Torres to train for States this year. All the courts were destroyed and under water. Torres said, “It wasn’t easy to find a usable court and someone to hit with, but I worked as hard as I could to make sure that I was ready to perform at my highest level.”
This year, Torres impressed South again. She went to States for a third time and won second place. “It was a pleasant surprise, because when I saw that I had to play the number one seed from Garden City High School and the winner of the Counties in Westchester, I knew that it would be difficult to make it to the finals,” she said.
Torres traveled with all the girls from Nassau County and Suffolk County who came in the top three at Counties for singles and doubles. The match against the girl from Westchester had a competitive first set, but Torres won 7-5. Torres then won the entire first match after beating her competitor 6-0 in the second set.
Torres’s winning streak continued as she moved on to the semifinals against the first seed from Garden City. “Playing some of the best tennis I have ever played, I was able to pull the victory 6-4, 6-1. This win was extremely important to me, because she was the person I lost to in the semifinals in Counties a few weekends before.”
Torres attributes much of her success to Mr. Umstatter and Coach Krauz for helping her during Counties and the three seasons that she played on the varsity team. She is grateful to both of them for all their help.
According to Coach Krauz, Torres has not only grown individually as a tennis player, she has also helped her teammates develop as players. Torres helped the team win the conference championship, a major team achievement. He added, “As a team, we all are proud of each other’s achievements on and off the court. I am happy to see her enjoy success from all her hours of hard work.”