The Day's All-Area Girls' Tennis Player of the Year: Waterford's Sarah Hage
There's a good chance that Sarah Hage will be on a tennis court just about any given day.
Even in the winter, Hage will go hit tennis balls in the cold weather.
"I would see her and her mom in the middle of the winter working on their game on the tennis courts at six or seven at night with the lights on," Waterford High School coach Ed Kolnaski recalled about one particular day.
It's that kind of year-long dedication and devotion to tennis that has helped Hage, the Lancers' No. 1 player, reach great heights in her sport.
"She just loves playing tennis," Kolnaski said. "She loves working on her game. She wants to get better. She just keeps working at it."
Hage, a sophomore, has yet to be beaten in two seasons of Eastern Connecticut Conference competition. She has won two straight ECC tournament singles titles. She is The Day's 2022 All-Area Girls' Tennis Player of the Year, receiving the honor for the second straight season.
"There's still competition even though I haven't lost," Hage said. "Every match there's going to be the nervous aspect of it. But, at the same time, I just tell myself to play my game. I try to go out and play and see how I can adjust to every player."
In the ECC singles final, Hage ran into a familiar foe in Stonington's Maddie Hamm. They battled for over three hours in the 2021 final before Hage won in an exhausting three sets. Hamm put up a fight again on May 25 but couldn't stop Hage from winning in straight sets, 6-1, 6-4.
During the off-season, Hage improved her game, especially her serve. She enjoyed getting to know her teammates better this season.
"It was not that good last year and I wasn't that happy with it," Hage said of her serve. "This year, I tried to work on it and there was definitely a lot of improvement. ... As a teammate, I was less quiet and knew more people on the team."
In the CIAC state invitational tournament, Hage, the No. 3 seed, received a first-round bye and then easily won her next match, 6-1, 6-0. She was eliminated in the round of 16, winning the first set 6-4 and losing the next two, 6-2, 10-7, against No. 14 Maria Weygang of Farmington.
Overall, Hage was happy with her season.
"I was satisfied," Hage said. "I feel like states have always been like a bonus. I always go out there and try to do my best. I was ranked third, a big achievement because it's the best people in the whole state.
"I lost in the round of 16, even though I was hoping to make it further, and I lost in three sets. It was a long match and I was a little upset. At the same time, I know what I have to work on for next year."
After taking a brief break after her high school season ended, Hage planned to be back on the tennis courts. She'll play some USTA tournaments over the summer. She will also visit family in Lebanon.
She explained why she dedicates so much time to tennis.
"It's my favorite sport," Hage said. "I just enjoy playing it. Also, I'm a really independent person and in tennis you're by yourself on the court and you're making decisions for yourself. You have to decide in every little moment what you need to do. I just like making decisions for myself.
"It is a lot of pressure sometimes. But at the same time, I just like to be out there on my own."
Her Waterford coaches have played a big part in her development but they also give a great deal of credit to Hage's mother, Amale, who was a ranked player in Lebanon before the family moved here.
"Her mom was a very, very good player in Lebanon," Kolnaski said. "She's worked with her and done a great job. Her mom knows a ton. They get along well and everything. She's a huge part. She's really the one that's developed Sarah.
"She's done a great job with Sarah. Not only preparing her to play, but also the right mental part."
Player of the Year - Sarah Hage (Waterford)
Grace Duggan (Stonington)
Maddie Hamm (Stonington)
Abby Sicuranza (Old Lyme)
Mara Wolff (East Lyme)
Alexis Fenton-Livie Bass (Old Lyme)
Katie Johnstone-Katya Snegovskikh (Stonington)
Marcella Hamm-Lauren Buckley (Stonington)