Recent Glastonbury High School graduate Catherine Zak served as the No. 1 single player on the tennis team for the past two years. She will now take her strong serve and powerful forehand to Nazareth College to play four more years.
Zak said Nazareth was one of the first colleges she visited during the recruitment process during her junior year and made her commitment official after going back for a more formal visit the winter of her senior year.
“I like being up in that area. It’s a beautiful campus and the opportunities there are great,” Zak said of the private college in Rochester, NY.
Collegiate tennis has been a 13 year journey for Zak, who first started playing at the age of five. She tried her hand at a variety of sports — including gymnastics, basketball, and soccer — before finding comfort on the tennis courts.
Zak said the sport was something that she “had to grow into”, adding, “When you’re younger you want to have fun with it and as you get older you start to get more competitive.”
After playing the sport continuously for over a decade, Zak found herself feeling a little “burnt out” during her junior year in high school before rediscovering her passion for the game as a senior.
“I had been playing [tennis] so long it has taken up a lot of my life, but I appreciate that now” recalled Zak, who was energized this past spring thanks to a close bond with her teammates.
“We were more of a family and more connected this year,” added Zak, “I will miss seeing the faces I got to see daily in school. I will really miss the tennis team.”
GHS head coach Sharon Murphy has had a front row seat of Zak’s development, saying her confidence has grown tremendously over the past four years thanks to her year-round commitment to the game.
“When she stepped out on the court she had a mission, and her mission was to win,” added Murphy. “She is the type of person that likes to figure it out herself. She knows what she has to do in her head to win.”
Murphy recalled that Zak sustained an injury to her right hand as a freshman and learned to serve and play with her left hand, an impressive feat in a sport where athletes rely heavily on their dominant hands
Following this past season, Murphy named Zak as the team’s Hartwell Award winner — an annual award given to the athlete with the greatest contribution to their team, taking into account performance, leadership, sportsmanship and dedication. Murphy added that Zaks’ improvement on handling the mental side of the sport is what will allow her to succeed in college.
Zak said she struggled with the mental part of tennis for years before discovering a simple solution.
“I learned to not care about anyone’s approval. Whether I win or not, I just care about if I think I did well or if I had fun,” stated Zak.
Tennis was just one of the many reasons that Zak is looking forward to her new venture.
She will study biology, leaning towards a focus on either neuroscience or environmental studies in the field.
Zak added she is “very interested in human biology” and is excited that Nazareth has a cadaver lab.
The ultimate goal for Zak is to research and find better treatments for people struggling with mental illness.
Along with a packed school and tennis schedule, Zak is also ready to set a more independent schedule at Nazareth.
“I had trouble advocating for myself when I was younger and now recently I have become more independent and do things on my own,” added Zak. “I’m excited to be able to structure my own time.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin