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Kerr Keeps Warriors Upbeat During Rebuilding Season
Recent graduate Freddie Kerr held down the No. 1 singles position on the Valley boys’ tennis team from start to finish this season. The senior captain’s relentless work ethic during practices and matches helped set the standard for his squad. (Photo courtesy of Freddie Kerr )
Freddie Kerr finished up a four-year career with the Valley Regional boys’ tennis team by earning the club’s Most Valuable Player Award this spring. Freddie, who competed out of the No. 1 singles position, was one of the Warriors’ key leaders as a senior captain. His steady presence on and off the court helped make Valley a stronger unit overall.
One of Freddie’s biggest moments came while playing in the Shoreline Conference Tournament’s singles bracket. Freddie was facing a familiar foe from Haddam-Killingworth who had his number during the regular season, although the third time was the charm for Freddie.
“My second-to-last match of the season in the Shoreline Tournament, I played the No. 1 from H-K. I lost to him both times during the regular season, but there, I was able to beat him,” says Freddie. “I felt like I really improved, and that showed it. It was a great way to end my season and my career at Valley.”
Coming into the 2019 campaign, Freddie wanted to step up his game while taking on the top competition in the Shoreline Conference. Head Coach Callie Riggio told Freddie early on that he would have every opportunity at the No. 1 singles position. Riggio’s confidence in Freddie assured him that he was on the right track.
“I was really seeking competition going into the season. I definitely felt the team and I were underdogs throughout the season, but I just really enjoyed going out and playing the top players,” Freddie says. “I didn’t really feel a lot of pressure. I just felt pride in playing at the top spot and playing against the best competition. I felt like I should give it my all, because this might be my last chance at organized tennis.”
Freddie and his fellow senior captain Jack Lima had a tall task when it came to recruiting some additional players for the team. The Warriors’ numbers were running a bit thin, leading to an influx of inexperienced players who Freddie helped develop into contributors.
“Going into the season, I was one of only three players returning to the team. We didn’t know if there would even be enough players to field the team,” says Freddie, who lives in Essex. “We ended up with a lot of people who didn’t have tennis experience. I took the opportunity to lend what I knew and create a positive environment to make sure these kids wanted to play next year. I wanted to keep the team and tradition going.”
Coach Riggio proved a big influence for Freddie and his teammates. Freddie says that Riggio’s positivity helped bolster everyone’s spirits during the midst of a rebuilding season. It also helped that Riggio was able to relate to her athletes after having competed on the Valley courts just a few years prior.
“Coach Riggio is an accomplished tennis player. Knowing that she was in our shoes just a couple of years ago made it easy for her to relate to us. She’s also a very positive person,” Freddie says. “It was a tough year, but she helped us all stay positive. If I was having a tough time during a set, she would call me over and get me to take a couple of deep breaths. She gave me advice on what I was doing as well, but she really helped me by just getting me to calm down.”
Coach Riggio says that Freddie was one of the Warriors’ best assets not just because he was the team’s top player, but also because he set the standard for the rest of the squad to follow. Freddie’s work ethic and ability to stay upbeat after tough matches helped the Warriors stay focused on improving.
“Freddie was definitely a role model, because he not only held the No. 1 position, but he was determined in every one of his matches,” says Riggio. “He used time at practice to improve his ability, which rubbed off on the freshmen, especially. He also motivated everyone by staying positive after every match, regardless of the outcome.”
In terms of his skills between the baselines, Freddie believes that his forehand is his greatest strength. Freddie’s strong forehand allows him to mix in a quality drop shot that keeps his opponents guessing.
“I definitely think my forehand is my main strength,” Freddie says. “I like to use my drop shot a lot to get my opponents off-balance, then mixing up the two so my opponent never knows what’s coming. That’s my strategy.”
While Valley didn’t have the greatest campaign in the win column, Freddie was pleased with how the Warriors progressed as the year went on. Freddie felt especially happy with how freshmen like Nic Wyskowski and Hayden Lombardi played well, while giving the Warriors a glimpse into a bright future.
“I think it definitely went better than anticipated in the beginning. One thing I was very proud of was how much the freshmen stepped up, especially Nic and Hayden. They both had really good years,” says Freddie. “I know the future of Valley tennis is in good hands. I am proud of the season that we had and, most of all, proud of the culture we had.”