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Timeout Girls Tennis: Celeste Garcia continues to grow in second season at Wheeler

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Updated: May 17, 2014 6:44AM



Having never played tennis, Celeste Garcia went out for East Chicago Central’s team as a freshman, having heard girls with similar inexperienced backgrounds sometimes quit after a day or two. She stuck with it, earning a varsity spot, at doubles.

When she transferred to Wheeler for her junior year, she thought she might crack the JV roster. She wound up playing No. 1 singles.

Now, Garcia can’t imagine her life without the sport, sacrificing to make it a priority. And though the transition admittedly remains ongoing after her family moved following her sophomore year, she has become a fixture atop the Bearcats lineup and a respected leader. She’s the only senior on a roster that includes nine juniors and five freshmen, including three starters.

“She’s really stepped up,” Wheeler coach Mike Rosta said. “She’s taken those freshmen under her wing. I’d like her to be even a little bit more vocal. She fit right in from the beginning, but she’s come a long way.”

It’s been a process for her, both on and off the court.

“I’ve learned a lot in school, and with it being a new coach and a new team for me last year, I had to adapt to them,” said Garcia, who played No. 3 singles for East Chicago in her second season. “To this day, it’s still different.”

Still, Garcia’s confidence continues to grow, as she continues to get more comfortable in general and to put extra time into her game.

It’s not uncommon for her to stay an hour or two after practice, working on her backhand or fine-tuning her serve. She decided not to play soccer in the fall in order to be a manager for the boys tennis team, consistently hitting with Jack Hibbard — she cites the Bearcats’ top player as a role model, as well as former Cardinals No. 1 Ashley Pabey — and other guys. Anything to improve.

The game means so much to her that she tends to put too much pressure on herself in matches, leading to nerves, especially early, before she gets into the flow and relaxes.

“She lives tennis,” Rosta said. “And you really can’t ask for more than that out of your No. 1 player.

“She’s just a great kid. Always smiling, always positive.”

Garcia also has a job at Buffalo Wild Wings to help pay bills and to save for college, but has scaled back her hours to accommodate the season’s schedule. Even Bible study gets impacted.

“I love tennis so much,” Garcia said. “There have been some tough times, and tennis was the thing that really pulled me through. I’ve gotten this far, and I’m not going to stop for anything.”

Garcia hopes to play at Purdue Calumet, allowing her to pursue that passion while remaining near her family.

“It was tough going to a new school, a new team, and losing my old tennis family, the people I started with,” she said. “But I love this tennis family too, my coach is amazing. I’m having the best time playing the spot that I always wanted to play, and I’ve learned so much. Going to Wheeler was a big change, but it definitely was the best thing for me.”



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