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The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

Boys Varsity Tennis Team Triumphs in PVAC Championship

From left to right: Sophomore and team manager Andrea Brudniak-Berrocal, freshman Simeon Bayer, freshman Martin Ferreira-Uribe, sophomore Derin Kirtman, sophomore Charlie Soven, sophomore Alexander Paxson, sophomore William Green, junior Sam Huffard and junior and supporter Ava Gonzalez. (Courtesy of Guy Neal)

As soon as the flowers bloom in March, it’s time for the Boys Varsity Tennis team to get their rackets out and begin training for the Potomac Valley Athletics Conference (PVAC) and the District of Columbia State Athletic Association (DCSAA) championships. The team brought back a PVAC Tournament banner this year, tying for first place with St. Anselm’s Abbey School. 

Although the team is successful, it is rarely recognized at WIS. Since games and practices are off-campus, few, if any, students go to support the team during their matches. 

However, this year, the team has gained more attention, such as a shoutout from the spirit coordinators, notably due to the advancement of several players, including junior Sam Huffard and freshman Simeon Bayer, into the state tournament.

The team is coached by upper school history, economics and Theory of Knowledge (TOK) teacher Guy Neal, who also coaches the Girls Varsity Tennis team. Neal used to be a competing tennis player throughout high school and did some light coaching over two summers of his high school and college years. 

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His hopes for the team aren’t only to win more PVAC banners or for individuals to advance into states, but to continue to “create a new ethos where tennis is more than just a season-long sport” and build on the team’s collaborative spirit.

“In this quasi-team, quasi-individual sport, you may be the number one singles player, but you’re not only playing for yourself,” Neal said. “Every point, in every match we play, counts equally, whether you’re the first singles or first doubles.” 

Team manager and sophomore Andrea Brudniak-Berrocal helps Neal out through assistant coaching, ensuring there is enough water and announcing the players’ rankings before the matches start. As a tennis player herself, she understands the team’s mindset. 

“Tennis is a very mental game,” Brudniak-Berrocal said. “For me, the best part is being with your team and seeing yourself improving. You start the season well, but you end it even better.”

Brudniak-Berrocal began training the team last year to be able to play tennis off-season, without the pressure of tournaments. She enjoys mentally preparing the team for matches, as well as making practice fun for everyone.

In addition to Brudniak-Berrocal’s support, the team’s number one singles player, Huffard, values the collaborative aspect of WIS’s tennis team. This was his second year playing on the team, and he also plays three days a week at the Pass Academy program in McLean. 

“Tennis is such an individual sport, and after playing so many team sports like soccer, basketball and volleyball, I really missed the team aspect of sports,” Huffard said. “You don’t get that as much with tennis as you do [in] other sports, but it was really fun having a team play tennis instead of it being just myself.”

Huffard was one of the players who was nominated to states, along with Bayer, who has played tennis since he was a child and now plays five times a week outside of WIS. Bayer also values the team component of tennis, as well as its equally important physical and mental elements.

Sophomore Derin Kirtman echoes both Huffard’s and Bayer’s sentiments about the sport. For Kirtman, the tennis court becomes a sanctuary where all distractions fade away. His focus shifts to the exhilaration of the game and the pursuit of victory, pushing his physical and mental limits.

“Ever since I was a toddler, I understood that sports were my escape from any negative things in my life,” Kirtman said. “When I’m on the court, field, track [and] gym… everything dissipates except for the feeling of fun and, of course, the desire to win.” 

While a competitive spirit is certainly a recurring theme among the team, many of the players also have additional goals. Brudniak-Berrocal expresses her hopes for the team’s future and their willingness to always strive to be better, both individually and as a team. 

“I hope they keep their drive,” she said. “It’s important to stay focused and not get nervous during the games. And most of all, I hope that they continue to have the bond they have today.”

Even though the team won the PVAC banner and advanced into states, winning isn’t the message Neal hopes the team leaves with. “You’re doing this ultimately for the team, which is, of course, WIS,” Neal said. “[I hope] to give them that sense of camaraderie and spirit and appreciation for the school and what it has to offer.” 

By Elektra Gea-Sereti and Leonardo Sarzi Braga

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About the Contributors
Elektra Gea-Sereti
Elektra Gea-Sereti, Opinions Editor
Hi my name is Elektra and I am a senior plus the Opinions editor. I have been at Dateline since 9th grade, and my opinion articles range from social media trends to movie reviews. While not being opinionated can be strenuous, I do write the occasional sports, features, and food article. Outside of Dateline, you can find me on the volleyball court, or debating people in Mock Trial. 
Leonardo Sarzi Braga
Leonardo Sarzi Braga, Multimedia Publications Editor

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