Tennis Team’s leading light
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The lime green, soft, yet bouncy, tennis ball gets squished in between a multi-colored racquet and a spotless white tennis shoe. For a split second the ball got pulled up, still in between her shoe and the racquet, the racquet hits the ball lightly to be caught in the hands of Caroline Kotarski to serve. She bounces the ball three times, tosses the ball into the air and the racquet smacks the ball to the other side of the rough blue tennis court. The opponent takes an outstretched leap to hit it back to her. Kotarski’s white shoes shuffle to the opposite side of the court to hit the ball back, but realizing the ball is headed for the out of bounds line, her shoes stop, and she wins the point.
Kotarski, junior, ended her school season this past year with going to State. She plays tennis year round at school and at indoor facilities. She still has plenty of work to do in the off season, and says it’s a non-stop grind from going to Hinsdale Racquet Club, which is an indoor facility with four courts, to Get Fast to work on agility and speed. Kotarski is currently ranked 12 in the state of Illinois.
Ever since she was eight years old Kotarski has been playing tennis. It has been a part of her life and if she were to lose it, she says it would be like losing her identity. Tennis not only has engulfed her, but her family too. Her parents go to matches as well as her younger brother. Her coaches help her a lot to support her and stay positive if she comes down to a close match. She says she plays tennis for the love of the game and she loves to compete to win. She will not go down without a fight each match.
When Kotarski is not playing singles for a tennis match, she will be with Sarah Badawi, junior. Badawi has known Kotarski for a long time. They have been doubles partner for the whole spring season of 2018. Kotarski and Badawi are not only partners on the court, but friends off the court. They share great chemistry with each other which helps when coming down to intense situations.
“[Caroline] has really motivated me to do my best in tennis. It has its ups and downs but playing with her was definitely a great experience and I can’t wait to try and do it again next year,” Badawi said.
The season led to the State finals, but a week before State, Kotarski she had to get surgery on her appendix. After joining varsity as a freshman, she got to experience State, but has missed the tournament the last two years due to injuries.
“Not playing State was so hard because last year I had an injury too and this year qualifying was so exciting and then I had to get surgery so I couldn’t do anything about it,” Kotarski said.
However, this has made her set her sights on State for next year. Until then she will continue to practice year round so she is ready for the chance to compete. And just like most of her practices, it’s another crisp day as she steps onto the court, neon, green ball in hand. She’s listening to her playlist on Spotify, which helps her distance herself from people as she prepares to play. The idea of winning gets into her head filled with Stir Fry by Migos playing in the background. Nodding along, she tosses the ball in the air, racquet ready to do what it needs to.