Athlete of the Week: Gresko finds team sport on court

At first, Rachel Gresko was hesitant to play for her Socastee High tennis team. As one of the top ranked juniors in the state, she admits to focusing more on her personal goals over her school’s program.

But after waiting until her sophomore season to suit up for the Lady Braves, Gresko is already leading the team to new heights, and her teammates have already changed her mind about the team concept.

“I chose tennis over soccer because I like individual sports more than team sports,” said Gresko, who was named this week’s Mammy’s Kitchen Athlete of the Week. “I don’t like having to rely on other people, and win or lose it’s all on you. I like that feeling, and it’s a lot to try to balance high school and juniors.”

Thanks to urging from her coaches and classmates, Gresko came out for the team this fall and quickly worked her way to No. 1 singles and doubles. She and the Lady Braves (10-0) are undefeated on the season after knocking off region power Myrtle Beach last week.

That was when Gresko learned the true spirit of teamwork. After defeating Myrtle Beach’s also-unbeaten Jessie Dumas in No. 1 singles 6-2, 6-1, she and her teammates could only hope and cheer that the ongoing matches fell their way. The Lady Seahawks held a 3-1 lead and only needed to split one of the two singles matches to win.

“It was really exciting being with my teammates watching the singles matches,” Greski said. “We were cheering because we wanted to play No. 1 doubles and have a chance to win. They came through and we were like ‘We’ve got to win this.’ ”

With the lights of the Myrtle Beach Tennis Center cutting through the darkness of the 3 1/2-hour match, Gresko seemed to increase her intensity level as she and Anna Brice Cox downed Myrtle Beach’s Rachel Berkey and Dumas 6-4, 6-4. Gresko said for the first time in her career she was fueled by the energy from her teammates.

“They were giving us a lot of support and I didn’t want to let them down,” Gresko said. “We have a lot of seniors on this team and we wanted to win this year so bad. It felt great to be able to help my team.”

Gresko now has the Lady Braves thinking about bigger goals as they put the finishing touches on a region title and prepare for the Lower State tournament. Gresko hasn’t given it much thought (she doesn’t know her own individual or her team’s state ranking because none of it matters in tournament play), but she knows she’s part of something bigger with the Lady Braves.

“I don’t really know about a state championship or anything because I don’t know a lot about the teams outside our area,” she said. “But I know we have a lot of strong players and a real tight group. I’m glad to be a part of the team.

“It’s really given me a more team aspect. I’ve always played juniors, all singles, so I had never really had all the support I get from my coaches and teammates. It’s made me play with a lot more confidence and I’m enjoying playing a lot more. All the girls on the team are fun to be around. It’s great being part of the team.”

Photo by Rancier Photography

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