Girls tennis

Wheeler's Garcia becomes leader of the tennis team

2014-04-15T18:00:00Z 2014-04-15T21:07:31Z Wheeler's Garcia becomes leader of the tennis teamJim Hunsley jim.hunsley@nwi.com, (219) 548-4356 nwitimes.com

Celeste Garcia transferred from E.C. Central to Wheeler last year, shed tears during her first tennis practice with the Bearcats and felt out of place at No. 1 singles last spring.

Through those trying times, she resolved to remain on the court.

"No way; never; that is crazy," Garcia responded about quitting. "I've given up so much to play. It was tough playing for another team, but I've worked so hard to get here."

Garcia won her first two singles matches this season, but the road to this point was littered with potholes.

Garcia began playing tennis as a freshman E.C. Central. She moved up to No. 3 varsity singles as a sophomore, reportedly winning eight matches. She enjoyed her time with the Cardinals, but other issues forced a change of scenery.

The family's house was broken into, and Garcia felt she was stagnating in the classroom.

"The area we were living in wasn't the best," she said. "School-wise with academics, I wasn't learning; I wasn't going anywhere.

The family moved to an area where she could go either to Hobart or Wheeler. She chose the latter, liking a smaller school with a chance at more one-on-one time with teachers.

Garcia knew she was in a better place, but she originally felt like an outsider.

"(E.C. Central coach Dave Lane) was one of the people I really looked up to; he was always there for me,"  Garcia said. "That team was like my family.

"I had to find my own space at Wheeler."

Last season, Wheeler No. 1 singles player Shelby Loftus injured her shoulder -- and Garcia was chosen to take over the top spot.

Garcia finished 4-4, but she felt uneasy about the move.

"It was surprising," Garcia said. "The coaches thought I deserved it, but I wasn't 100 percent sure. I could hit the ball back, but I couldn't angle it and place it in spots. I just didn't feel comfortable."

Wheeler coach Mike Rosta thinks Garcia is her own worst critic.

"She was a godsend last year with all of the injuries we dealt with," Rosta said. "She's just a sponge, and she loves the concept of learning new things. I wish we could have had her all four seasons."

One of her strong points now is her serve. Garcia used to hit it flat without any spin. She's been taught to toss the ball out in front more, hit with a slice and get more of angle on the shot. Rosta also believes her backhand, once a weak point, is now better than her forehand.

Garcia, the lone senior on the roster, is now the team's leader. Garcia has gained a sense of belonging, but she's also in a position to show her gratitude.

"I feel like I'm trying to help out the younger players," she said. "No matter who's on the team, I want them to feel welcomed. That's what (past players) did for me."

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