By TAYLOR MABELITINI
Amidst the quiet rhythm of rackets hitting tennis balls and the occasional shout of “heads up!” found at the Chippewa Club on Monday evenings, 21-year-old Nicole Valota dominates the first court like a well-seasoned pro.
Such a description is fitting for the Brazilian native, who, alongside her 19-year-old brother Lucas, has been playing since a young age.
“I think I was, like, 7, 8 when I started. From when I was 11 to 17, I played, like, every day,” Lucas said.
Nicole continued along the same lines, “I used to play in competitions when I was little. I would practice every day.”
The Valotas both attend Washtenaw Community College. Nicole is studying international business, Lucas, engineering. Together, the siblings recently joined WCC’s intramural tennis team, which is composed of about 20 students and exists for players of all skill levels to learn and improve their game while still having a good time.
“I more like watching the game. If you watch some of them, they’re really good at it. So watching them play, I really enjoy it,” said Ariana Behm, 20, coordinating assistant for the sports office and student at WCC.
While the siblings share a love of tennis, they differ in their reasons.
“I love the idea of being dependent on you – not anyone else,” Nicole said, adding that she does not play doubles. “I play soccer; I play volleyball, but with tennis, it just depends on me. If you lose, it’s because you didn’t do well, not because other people.”
Lucas enjoys the thrill of being focused on a game.
“I love the intensity of the game,” he said. “You got to be on the game. Lose your focus for two seconds, and you could lose a game or even a set. That’s why I love it, cause you’ve got to be focused all the time.”
Both of the Valotas attribute their affinity for tennis to their parents, who were successful athletes themselves and introduced the sport to their children at a young age.
“I grew up with it,” Nicole said. “It just reminds me of family.”