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Sports Person of the Week
Baldwin Sees Success with Two Warriors’ Teams
Olivia Baldwin is off to a strong start with the Valley Regional girls’ tennis team this spring. The sophomore has won all seven of her matches at the No. 3 singles spot and one match at No. 2 singles. (Photo courtesy of Olivia Baldwin)
Olivia Baldwin had to wait a year longer than anticipated, but she finally got her chance to take the court for the Valley Regional girls’ tennis team this season. Olivia, a sophomore, plays No. 3 singles for the Warriors and has yet to lose a match thus far.
Along with her solid play on the tennis court, Olivia also patrols the midfield for the Valley girls’ soccer squad.
Olivia has been part of some successful groups in both of her sports during the early goings of her high school career. Olivia feels proud to call herself a Warrior.
“In my freshman year during the soccer season, we made it to the Shoreline finals. We didn’t win, but that was pretty memorable. It was a close game,” says Olivia. “As for tennis, I really love my team this year. We’re all super close. So far, I’ve gone undefeated through the singles matches, and the team has gone 6-2. So, both of those are pretty cool.”
Olivia has been soaring on the court this spring, even when playing at a more difficult position. Olivia primarily plays a defensive-minded game, but isn’t afraid to get aggressive at the net when the opportunity arises.
“When we played Portland, one of our captains wasn’t there and all of our positions switched, and I had to play No. 2 singles. I ended up winning that match,” Olivia says. “I’m a bit of both defensive and aggressive. I’m defensive most of the time, but I can be aggressive when I need to be or when I get a chance. I like to charge the net. I would say my forehand is definitely my strength.”
Olivia’s success has been a pleasant surprise considering that she hadn’t played in many competitive tennis matches prior to this season. It just took a bit of time for Olivia to get the butterflies out, and she credits Head Coach Sally Riggio and senior captains Alex Halsey and Ada Ramos for helping her through it.
“I didn’t really have any competition experience before Valley. I played for fun and did clinics. It was a big adjustment to jump into real matches with a real team,” says Olivia. “It’s super intense to play in a real match. I feel like my mindset plays an important role, recovering from mistakes quickly and focusing on the point ahead of me. I have to stay positive and not get too down on myself. It felt good when we got into the swing of things. Coach Sally was definitely supportive through it all.”
Olivia’s tennis roots extend throughout her family. Olivia’s older sister Caroline also played for the Warriors before she graduated in 2020, as did her older brother Kevin, who graduated in 2018. Their father Michael and grandfather David also are avid tennis players.
“I’ve been surrounded by it all my life. I just really enjoy playing. I would say I picked up a racquet when I was 10 or 12. I started doing actual clinics when I was around 12,” Olivia says. “I went to a bunch of Caroline’s matches when she played at Valley. She also takes me out so we can play matches against each other and gives me pointers, so that’s super helpful. We played together a lot before I joined the Valley team. Our dad, our older brother, and our grandfather played, as well. We will all play together sometimes. We play some doubles matches. Nothing too intense as far as rivalries. We’re all pretty friendly.”
Coach Riggio knew that Olivia had a strong tennis background coming into the season. However, Riggio didn’t anticipate that the sophomore would see such immediate success on the singles court.
“Olivia is a pleasure to have on the tennis team. She’s the younger sister of a former player, and it’s like I hit the sibling lottery. Olivia is a patient, consistent, and focused player. I’m very impressed by her maturity. She’s an exceptional athlete that exhibits strength, speed, and endurance. She remains undefeated and is having a great season,” Riggio says. “Olivia always demonstrates kindness on and off the court. She is well-liked by her teammates and has a positive attitude. The only bad news is that this is the last Baldwin in the bunch. I look forward to watching Olivia continue to develop as a young and talented tennis player.”
Even though Olivia has a family tree filled with tennis players, she actually considers soccer her primary sport. Olivia loves to play tennis, but her first game took place on the soccer pitch.
“I enjoy them equally, but I would consider soccer my main sport. I just love to be on the field, playing the game and connecting passes. I’ve been playing soccer almost all of my life,” says Olivia. “At Valley, our team has a lot of chemistry. It’s fun to be on the field with all of them. I play center holding midfield.”
Olivia believes that if the Warriors had the chance last fall, they could have enjoyed a successful postseason and perhaps even avenged their 2019 finals loss to Haddam-Killingworth. Unfortunately, the team was hit with contact tracing protocols in the last week of the regular season, thus precluding Valley from any postseason play.
“We had to quarantine just before Shorelines. I think we could have done very well if we had the chance,” Olivia says. “We had already beaten our biggest competitor H-K during the regular season. We were pretty confident going into it. So, when it got canceled, we were pretty crushed.”
As for her first tennis season, Olivia is excited to see what the rest of the year brings. Olivia believes that Valley has a great shot to make some noise in the postseason, and she can’t wait to be a part of it.
“I think getting to Shorelines and doing well there is a big goal we all have. We want to maintain our good record for sure,” says Olivia. “I’m really hopeful for the rest of the season. I’m lucky I’m on such a close team with really good friends.”