The tennis ball smacks the pavement; back and forth it goes as she inhales deeply to find the strength to take the next swing.
It’s her first collegiate game, her first time playing in the number one spot and all eyes are on her.
A slew of emotions flood her thoughts; a lingering nervous feeling of how her first match will pan out.
A familiar foe, anxiety, tries to take hold, reminding her of the pressure of how important it is to not let her team or her coach down.
Alex Altamirano was built to handle the pressure.
In the midst of it all, she finds the strength within her, the reminder that at the end of the day it’s all about having fun in playing the sport she loves; she wins.
Altamirano, nursing major, is a freshman and has taken the role of captain for the Lady Hornets tennis team.
However, like all roads the path was not always straight. Becoming the captain and playing in the number one spot has not been an easy road to walk for her.
“I didn’t like tennis at first because I was forced to do it,” Altamirano said.
Tennis has been Altamirano’s sport since she was seven, but the love of the game was not always present when she first picked up the racket.
Altamirano’s father forced her to play. She can’t recall why he chose tennis for her but she tells the story of the misery behind the strict rules of training with her father.
“My dad was hard on me. He said it was for me to get better but his negativity made me feel like I wasn’t good enough,” Altamirano said. “He always expected me to do my best. It was too much pressure and it made me resent it [tennis].”
Where her father lacked patience in her, Altamirano inspired her team and coach Akhom Inthavong both on and off the court with her easy going personality.
With three wins and two loses in the preseason, she has proven to be an effective captain that is able to unite her team and bring them together.
“When Alex is not here the team is dead. She communicates well and is very helpful,” said teammate Sabrina Formalejo. “She’s understanding and doesn’t get pissed off easily.”
Watching Altamirano play, it is easy to recognize her talent. Despite having played varsity all four years in high school at Ayala and winning MVP of the Sierra League, Altamirano hasn’t enjoyed playing tennis as much as she does now in her college career.
“My mom has always supported me playing tennis and now I have a coach that is very supportive and takes a more positive approach in training me,” Altamirano said.
Altamirano originally started out playing in the third spot of the team but was promoted to the first after a teammate was offered a scholarship somewhere else and couldn’t play, according to Inthavong.
Inthavong noticed that besides Altamirano’s skills, what stood out the most about the athlete was her devotion to constantly work hard and that she didn’t hesitate in accepting the number one spot.
“I see the commitment and the joy in playing game, that’s what really struck me,” Inthavong said. “She embraced her role as captain and all the girls look up to her not because of her skill but because of her personality.”
Altamirano plans on transferring to a four-year university and continue playing tennis but she is not picky about which school.
One thing is for sure, this year she’s already created a buzz for the Lady Hornets tennis squad.
“My primary reason for playing tennis is that I see myself getting better,” Altamirano said. “I need support and encouragement every step of the way and I know I have it through my mom, coach and teammates.