Theresa Fabrizio actually quit playing tennis for two months after enduring a sour senior season with the Warren John F. Kennedy High girls team last year. At one point, she also decided not to play the sport in college.
But then Fabrizio, who was born without her left arm, met longtime Hiram College coach Pete Brann during a visit, and he rekindled her interest in making the jump to the collegiate game.
Then she sought the advice of her personal coach, Paul Newlove, and her first tennis tutor, Joe Marino, and both encouraged her to take her game to the collegiate level.
As a result of all this support and motivation, Fabrizio decided to attend Hiram this year and play tennis for Brann's Terriers, after also considering Kent State, Westminster and Thiel.
Brann is entering his 18th season as the women's tennis coach and 32nd year as the men's tennis coach.
"I really like the coach and he was the kind of coach [I liked] because I had this bad coaching last year," Fabrizio said. "He made me realize how important it is to have a good coach. He seems like someone I'd really like to play for."
Top female in Ohio
She will enter Hiram from a position of strength and reinforcement, because she recently was named the winner of the 2002 Secret Sportsgirl of the Year Award for Ohio, and a $250 gift.
The award, administered by the Women's Sports Federation and sponsored by Secret Antiperspirant, is presented to an outstanding female athlete with a positive self-image and a healthy self-esteem.
The WSF is a non-profit educational organization that was founded by Billie Jean King, and is dedicated to promoting and enhancing the sports and fitness experience for all girls and women.
Fabrizio plans to use the $250 for college expenses or to help the Hiram women's tennis team.
After deciding on Hiram, Fabrizio launched her tennis comeback. She played in the Junior Olympic (16-18) league at Warren Olympic Club, and in a clinic against boys at the Avalon Tennis Club.
It also was during this comeback period that Fabrizio discovered her career calling.
While playing at Warren Olympic Club, she also began teaching the younger players and liked it so much that she decided she would like to become a tennis coach.
"I learned so much and I was able to help a lot of younger kids. I really would like to coach and possibly negate what I went through the last year," she said.
Fabrizio, who leaves for Hiram Tuesday and will begin practice Sept. 3, was encouraged by her parents, Linda and Randy Fabrizio, to begin playing tennis at an early age. And she was able to overcome her handicap with determination, perseverance and coaching from Marino and Newlove.
Now, she would like to use her ability to play tennis with one arm as a way of attracting people to the sport.
"I didn't want to be recognized because of my handicap. I wanted to use it to inspire anyone [whether] with one or two arms," she said. "A lot of people have started to play because of me."
Although she concedes she has a handicap, it doesn't control her. She controls it.
"I have lived with it so long that I have learned to accept it. For awhile, I had a hard time trying to understand why this had to happen to me. I learned to understand it and to adjust and to make the most of it as a fact of life," she explained.
Fabrizio also has been awarded the Keith Vens Tennis Memorial Scholarship, Italian/American Sports Hall of Fame Scholarship, Wolves Club Scholarship, Linsey Scholarship and the John Q.T. Ford Scholarship.
XJohn Kovach is a sportswriter for The Vindicator. Write to him at email@example.com.