Athlete of the Week: Hard work pays off for Harrelson

cambtennis-socThe fact that Tatiana Harrelson is in her fifth season as the No. 1 singles player for the Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach girls tennis team is impressive enough. Even more spectacular is that the Mammy’s Kitchen Athlete of the Week is only a sophomore.

Leading the Lady Saints since her sixth-grade season, Harrelson brings tons of talent and experience to the SCISA Class 2A squad. That’s because she has been playing the sport since the age of 5, and she has been working hard on her game since she first picked up a racket.

“Tatiana is the best example of what hard work and conviction can do for a sport,” said CAMB tennis coach Jana Houghton. “She works so hard on her tennis skills and it is no surprise that she is reaping the fruits of her labor in wins for the team.”

Harrelson is off to a perfect 5-0 start to the season in singles despite playing some tougher competition in the non-conference schedule. Her mental toughness has helped her team reach an overall record of 4-1 as they get ready for region play.

“Last year in my first match against Socastee and playing against Socastee this year were probably my toughest matches,” said Harrelson, who has a pair of career wins over public school squads Socastee and St. James. “These matches and the match against Florence Christian last season have probably been my biggest challenges.”

Harrelson is using the tougher competition to help her continue to get better. She has been working on improving all aspects of her game to hopefully play in college one day, and she also competes on the junior circuit almost monthly. She even takes a couple of online courses so she can dedicate more time to practice. Like any hard worker, Harrelson can be her harshest critic.

“Adapting to how my opponents are playing, especially if they are playing at a slower pace, that is one of the biggest challenges for me,” Harrelson said. “I feel like my volleys or my forehand are the best parts of my game. I still want to improve my footwork, consistency and my mental toughness.”

Harrelson’s work ethic has helped her reach her current level of success, but her initial interest in tennis was sparked by family connections. Her mother, Sarah, played tennis at Lander University, and she conveniently grew up near tennis courts. Her father, Greg, also plays and works with her on maintaining a positive mental attitude – one of the keys to her game.

“Another facet of her game is her attitude. She never shows less than her best which is definitely a stellar example for the lower-seeded players,” Houghton said of Harrelson. “… (and) she is always humble. She never brags about her wins and is always courteous to her opponent.”

Harrelson teamed up with Grace Houghton won the SCISA Open Doubles Championship last season, and Harrelson was the SCISA Open runner-up in the singles championship in 2014. Best of all, she still has 2 1/2 seasons to help the Lady Saints program reach new heights.

Photo by Joel Beachum

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