October 22, 2013 08:40PM
By Ken Lipshez
Former Platt High tennis player Rebecca Mauri was named Great Northeast Athletic Conference Rookie of the Week by virtue of winning all four of her matches for the University of St. Joseph during the week ending October 13.
Mauri, a freshman, lost just three games in winning two straight-set singles matches and teamed with another Platt graduate – junior Emely Chenard – for two doubles victories.
But numbers and awards are only a small part of Mauri’s love affair with tennis, passion for achieving her goals both on and off the court and deep respect for those who have helped her along the way.
“She’s an absolute home run on every level,” USJ head coach Tom Walsh said repeatedly.
Mauri has her future laid out well for a young woman who just four months ago was graduating from high school. She is majoring in special and elementary education with a minor in sports study with the intent to become a tennis coach and pass along what’s been bestowed on her.
Her perspective on sports, and tennis as it applies to her, transcends victory and defeat.
“Every match I’ve played this season I’m proud of, even the losses,” said Mauri, who attended Mercy High for two years before transferring to Platt. “Every loss has been a good loss because I played well. I’m a freshman, so I’m happy with what I’m doing. I would know if didn’t play my best and haven’t had a situation like that all season.”
Her 6-5 overall mark in singles through Monday’s shutout loss to Simmons College means little to Walsh, 82, who has been coaching tennis at St. Joseph since 1994.
“One thing that’s important to remember is that the switch from high school to collegiate tennis is huge,” said Walsh, who won gold medals playing senior doubles with former Boston Celtics Hall of Famer K.C. Jones. “The level of competition increases tremendously.
“One of her losses was to a girl from Mount Holyoke. She was playing at number one and lost in three sets. I said to her that in my judgment, that’s a win for you. She’s a senior, you’re a freshman. She has three years on you in terms of college tennis. That pleased her. Talking about wins is not a fair measure.”
Mauri has already become a cornerstone for the Blue Jays’ program. A freshman playing number one or number two singles is rare.
“She’s playing high because we need her there,” Walsh said. “She plays either at one or two in every match so she’s always going to meet top players. She played magnificently against a terrific player from Simmons and I told her I’m so proud because she went head to head with her. Her record could be misinterpreted. She’s a fine player and the best is yet to come.”
The transition to college tennis has come at a time when Mauri is experiencing her first traces of college life, and she’s adjusted well.
“I always wanted to play college tennis. That’s what I strived for,” she said. “I didn’t know how I’d do. I didn’t know if I’d be a starter. As a freshman, I’m grateful to get as much playing time as I’ve been getting. That’s huge. I’m a stronger player. The people I’m playing with are great. The competition level is harder. I improve every year and by playing better people I get better.”
The social ramifications have helped her form a rock-solid foundation.
“I’ve met incredible people. These are my friends I’ll have for all four years,” she said. “Tennis is a fall sport and I came here not knowing anybody. The girls on the team have been easy to blend with. We’ll be friends out of season and in season. We help each other. It helps me adapt to college life.”
Mauri didn’t know Chenard at Platt because of her time at Mercy. Walsh said Chenard has been reduced to playing just doubles because of a back injury.
“We’re a great doubles team and we’re friends on and off the court,” Mauri said. “She’s two years older. She was friends with my brother (Alex) at Platt. We were never on the Platt team at the same time.”
Walsh thinks of Jones’ words of wisdom when he considers what Mauri represents as a student-athlete.
“He spoke about athletics as a passion. If you do not have the passion for the game you’ll be mired in mediocrity, he said. Becca has a passion for this game and it will take her to another level. She’s sad when practice ends,” Walsh said.
Part of that passion is her yen to recognize those who have inspired her.
“Thank you to the coaches at St. Joseph, my amazing teammates and incredible doubles partner because I couldn’t win without her,” Mauri said.
“I’d like to thank my very first tennis coach, Karen Whiting. You have to start somewhere and she taught me how to hold a racquet.”
She also thanked her Platt coach Jennifer Hornsby, who has since relocated from Meriden to Georgia.
“A home run on every level,” Walsh says, and what’s best for the coach and his program is that Mauri’s ball will stay in flight for quite a while.