Jake Valencic is a junior on the Washington tennis team. He has been playing No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles for most of the year. His coach, Dan Ballard, calls him a good vocal leader of the team. Valencic is on the school executive board, the president of national honor society, and a member of the Washington Leadership and Community Services (WLCS). He has gone 7-1 in singles and 13-4 in doubles.
Journal star reporter Johnny Campos had five questions for Valencic:
1. Your coach said you made quite an improvement this year after some struggles your first two seasons. What did you do during the offseason to get so much better?
"I really began to focus on my mental game. When playing tennis, you are usually alone on the court. If you aren’t playing to the level you feel you should, or if you get behind, it can be very frustrating. In years past, the frustration would get in my head and my play was affected, most times negatively. This year I have been able to stay focused."
2. Did you take it upon yourself to be one of the team leaders this season?
"Our team is very young, and we have only two seniors. By stepping into a leadership role, I am able to help the younger players develop their games. I give advice on how to stay strong mentally, help them develop court strategy, and strengthen their basic skills. Being friends off the court also lets me create connections with them to where they aren’t afraid to ask for advice, and I can ask them for feedback as well."
3. Your doubles partner, Ethan Sabotta, qualified for state in singles last season. Has teaming up with him helped you improve your game?
"Ethan and I have been friends for a long time; we started playing tennis together before high school. We both have strengths on the court that complement each other’s play and help overcome our individual weaknesses. It makes us a strong doubles team."
4. What are some of this season's highlights?
"This year’s highlights include beating some players and teams that we had never beaten before, winning some marathon matches where it seems every point went to deuce and was very challenging, and playing at a level that my team and coach knew I was capable of."
5. Are you a big tennis fan, and do you have a favorite pro player?
"I love tennis as a sport in general, and I always try to find time to watch the professional players compete. My favorite player is Roger Federer, who I have been watching my whole life. Watching professionals play tennis shows how difficult of a sport it is and how much you have to work to be the best in the world."