Order on the Court! Here Comes Tennis!

The Blue and White had the pleasure of meeting with the players and coach of Apopka High School’s Tennis team. We interviewed players about what introduced them to tennis and what goes through their mind during a match. When interviewing Coach Novoa we discovered her heart-warming connection to tennis. 

Coach Lesley Novoa

What are the steps to take to join the tennis team?

All students need to be cleared through athletic clearance before they can come try out or do any conditioning. But once they do that, we hold a trial over a two-day period to see their basic foundations; what techniques they have and where they would fall in the lineup. In tennis we have lines, which would be equivalent to positions in football. The only fees we have is if they choose to purchase their uniform or any additional merchandise.There’s no fee to play.

What days do you have practice?

Prior to our matches starting,we practice Monday through Thursdays, 3:00 to 4:30. Once our matches start, since our matches are during the week, if we have a match, we don’t practice. If we don’t have a match, we practice. If fluctuates every week

Is every practice mandatory?

We do try to make it mandatory, since they have to practice in order to play. Do I hold it against him if they’re not there for valid reasons? No, absolutely not. I’m big on communication; let me know. I have a lot of students who are in NHS, Beta, and Band. They tend to come late sometimes to practice, but it’s fine because they tell me. They’ll be like, “I have a huge test. I have to go tutoring.” Fine. I’m all about academics first, I’m a teacher.

How many games per season?

We have anything from 15 to 17 games. They’re split between District and Metro. They have to play District matches in order to play in Districts, so I don’t let them skip District matches. So far the girls are at a two win two loss ratio, and the boys team are at a two loss one win ratio.

Who is your most challenging competitor?

I think our most challenging competitor would be Lake Mary High School, which is in our district group of teams. Their players overall, both the girls team and boys team, are just so driven and so passionate out there. It really gives our kids a run for their money. We’re passionate and they’re passionate, so we really have a good game and great sportsmanship between both teams. It’s nice.

What do you focus on training?

In training we are looking at how we can better the technical skills. They already come to us knowing how to, for the most part, serve and hit forehand/backhands. Now, we’re out trying to clean those up a little bit, make them more fine-tuned, more powerful, and more consistent. Tennis is more about consistency than it is about how hard you can hit.

How do you know tennis?

My husband is our other coach. He actually taught me how to play when we started dating 22 years ago. We play recreationally all the time. He grew up playing, so it’s just been something that we do. Some people go on hikes, we go play tennis. My daughter also plays. It’s just something that’s in our family. I started being the tennis coach because I heard they needed a tennis coach. I was talking to our past athletic director Eddie Sanders; I knew him for many years. I was talking to him and he said we needed a tennis coach. I was like, “Okay let me see if I can make it work.” At that time my daughter was coming up to be in high school. I thought this was something I should do since I can coach her and we can all continue the family tradition: I started coaching because of her. Being in tournaments for so long, tennis is just something I know. This will be my fourth year coaching here. I’m not sure how long I will coach. I know for sure I’m coaching this year, I don’t know what next year will hold. It’ll be my daughter’s senior year and we’re starting the college tours for her because she’s going to be playing athletics in college tennis. Their season and our season run at the same time, so I don’t know if I can make [coaching] work. I don’t want to give up doing those things with her Senior year.

What is your most memorable moment in tennis?

It would have to be last year, our girls teams won second place in Districts for the first time in a while.We got to go to Regionals, which again hasn’t happened in about 5 or 6 years. Then Alyssa won Singles in Districts, so she automatically advanced to States. It was a miracle that we were all together because our girls just kicked butt and took names. I was very proud of them. They worked really hard. The whole team was there and we were cheering. It was really a whole family experience.

Alyssa Novoa – 11th grade

I’ve been playing tennis since I was three, and I’ve been doing Florida virtual for about 3 years now. I was introduced to tennis by my parents. My dad played when he was younger. When he met my mom, he self-taught himself again. He taught me as soon as I was able to play because I was a little young. My goal is to go to a division one and then go pro. In order to do that, I needed more time to practice, so I decided to do Florida Virtual. I’ve been doing it since winter break of 7th grade; that’s when I switched.

I love tennis.  It gets a little bit monotonous at times because I’ve been playing for 14 years. There are times when I’m like, “Do I really want to keep doing this,” but I’ve always stuck with it. I’ve done other sports in the past, such as soccer, gymnastics, swimming, basketball, and running, but I’ve always stuck with tennis. I think it’s just that my family and parents have always been there supporting me with whatever I do so that helped a lot.

During a match, I try to not think about anything. I’ve been told that you need to have a plan for what you’re going to do on that point: serve and the next shot. But every time I try to do that, I start overthinking. I try to keep a clear mind and not let errors get to me. I’ll also try to think of something that makes me happy like tennis or my dog. I just try to stay happy. My most memorable moment was winning districts last year and helping our tennis team get into regionals. That was our first time going to regionals in a few years. Winning Districts last year was a really cool moment for me considering I played the same girl I played freshman year when I lost. It was really good coming back and winning.

Outside of tennis, I like to hang out with friends, visit my grandparents, and spend time with my boyfriend. I also like to read a lot. I’m reading Twilight right now and a lot of Colleen Hoover.

Angel-Lily Williams – 10th grade 

I was born in England. I came over to America when I was two or three.  I have played tennis for about 7 or 8 years. Before tennis, I played soccer, but I definitely found my dream sport. I’m glad that I am continuing tennis through High School and hope that I can make something big out of it. 

In soccer, a lot of times you have to rely on a team, but I wanted to do something where I mostly relied on myself. Tennis in high school is still nice because you still have a team that’s also like a family.  But on the court, you’re mostly by yourself. I am 50/50 with Singles and Doubles. I like Doubles because my partner is very reliable, but I also like Singles because I get to be in the zone. During a match, I think of the opportunity of shining and producing my best shots. I try to stay relaxed and focused. I try not to get ahead of myself because that can affect your game a lot. I remind myself to just breathe through each point.

My most memorable moment was last year when I made line 2 as a freshman and when the girls’ team made it all the way to Regionals. 

Outside of tennis, I love spending time with family and friends. I have a little sister that I love looking after. She’s 5 years old and I’m more of a role model to her. She looks up to me and that’s really nice.

Gracey Burchfield

I’m 16 years old, play tennis, and ride horses. I don’t attend Apopka High School; I’m homeschooled. I was introduced to tennis by my dad. He played for Apopka High School all four years. He was 1st seed.  After I quit gymnastics, I decided to join tennis and I loved it.  I’ve been playing for two and a half years now.

During a match, I just tell myself that I can do it and get the ball in. You have to be able to read your player too, and find their weakness. I try to tell myself to get it in and be consistent.

I play Singles and Doubles, 4th seed. Saaya and I play Line 2 Doubles together. I like to play singles more because I feel like I have more control. 

Jack Carter – 11th grade

I play tennis. I’m a Junior here at Apopka. I was also on the soccer team. My hobbies are tennis and soccer. I was introduced to tennis by my Dad. He used to play tennis and was like, “I should try it,” and so I did. I stayed because it’s better than soccer. During the season I practice every day. When the season is over 2 to 3 days a week. I would say the most important part of the gear is the racket because you actually have to hit the ball sometimes.

During a match, I tell myself to “try to win” among other things. I remind myself of the specific things to work on that my dad or coach told me. I keep their advice in my mind.

Outside of tennis, I’m in robotics. I go to competitions all the time, most Saturdays, and that’s it.

Sisters in Play. Kendyl (right) and Logan (Left).

Kendyl Walker – 9th grade

My favorite color is blue, and I’m in the marching band and concert band. I was introduced to tennis by my sister. She was taking me to practice, and I wanted to get involved in it. I plan to stay in Tennis because it’s going to look good on my college application, and it’s fun. 

During a match, I try to keep a clear mind, like a blank space. I play singles and doubles. I prefer singles because you don’t have to rely on another person. If you get into doubles with someone you haven’t played with,  it’s really hard because you have to try to coordinate with your teammate. 

I would say my skills in Tennis don’t influence other sports like badminton and ping pong very much.  Badminton is different because it’s a wind-affected sport. Also, the badminton racket is very different from the tennis racket. I’m already decent at ping pong.

Logan Walker- 12th grade 

I’m in the marching band and concert band. I play Tennis, my favorite color is purple, and I’m pretty much everywhere around the school. I was introduced to tennis through a side program outside of school. I wanted to try something new my Freshman year of high school so I tried out tennis, and I’ve stayed ever since

During a match, I try to keep my mind cool, calm, and ready to play. My favorite moments in tennis are when we put our hands in at the start of every game and say, “Darters on three, Darters on three, 1…2…3…Darters!”

Outside of tennis, I like to read on the side, improve my instrument a little bit or have fun with it, hang out with friends, and just do a lot of different things. A book I recommend is The Cruel Prince by Holly Black.

Lucia Quinones – 12th grade

I am 17 years old, a Senior at Apopka High School, and this is my fourth year playing tennis. I was introduced to tennis by my friends. We were all trying to find a sport we wanted to play together. We all happened to choose tennis and decided to go. We were all a group of 9th graders trying out. I chose to stay because I enjoyed it. I was still a beginner, but it was nice to hang out with everybody. 

I prefer Singles. With Doubles, I still like doing teamwork, but it’s something I still have to work on. In Singles, I normally know how to play by myself, but in Doubles you have to have a teammate that you’ve played with for years. Personally, I have always switched with different people, so it’s been hard to do stuff like that, but hopefully, I can get better at it.

What goes through my mind during a match has changed throughout the years. It first started off as, “Oh my gosh. What is everyone thinking about me right now? Am I doing the right thing? Am I winning?” I had so much on my mind to the point where it affected my play. Just recently I started going with more of a calm attitude. Keeping my temper at a low and keeping myself at an optimal level like, “It’s not over yet. Stay calm.” 

My most memorable moment was when I got hit in the back. My friend served and she has a powerful, powerful serve. I found out the hard way. She’s not playing this year, but she hit me pretty good. It was just a great experience.

Outside of tennis, I love animating. During covid, I started self-teaching myself and enjoyed doing that. So tennis is my sport, and if I want to chill out or make something fun for others, I would animate, and people would enjoy it. 

Manuel John – 11th grade

I’m an 11th grader hoping to become an engineer, and I play tennis because it’s fun. I was introduced to tennis by my dad. I watched him play tennis growing up. Seeing how much fun he had when he was playing with his friends got me excited, so I joined tennis too. I chose to stay in tennis because all of my friends are here, playing tennis with me. I have that support with me every single time.

During a match, I tell myself, “You might think it’s a lot, but in the end, it’s just like a small little doe wave,” as I try to end the point as soon as I can. There’s not much going through my mind, just “stay calm”.

My most memorable moment would be when I was 11 or 12, playing with some of my friends at my first tournament. It was a doubles match, and we played to the very end. It was a close match, but we won. I prefer Doubles because you know that someone’s got your back.

Outside of tennis, I like to read books or play video games with my friends.  I would recommend Cassandra Clare. She has good books like The Mortal Instruments and the Shadowhunter series. They’re all really good. 

Saaya Lijo – 10th grade

I believe I’m a very hard-working person. I always like to keep myself busy, and I found tennis as a way to do that. I’ve been playing since I was 4 years old. It’s been a fun opportunity for me to play and have fun in high school. My dad introduced me to tennis. He started playing tennis when he moved here from India, which is right before I was born. Once I was old enough to start walking and holding a racket, he introduced me along with some of his friends.

During a match, I tell myself to “get the ball in” because tennis is about being smart. You have to know where to play the angle and place every single ball. It’s just a spur-of-the-moment thing. You have to read how you’re going to hit the ball. You have to read your player, where their balls’ are going to go and see what their weaknesses and strengths are. I think about all of that in the span of a couple of seconds.

I think my most memorable moment is from districts last year when I made it to finals. I lost, but it was memorable because we were both playing really hard. The match was very close, 8-8, and we had to play tiebreakers. It was a hard match. Even though I lost that one, it was really fun and exciting.

Outside of tennis, I like to debate [in Speech & Debate]. I’ve done ballet. I’m in a lot of extracurriculars. I tutor some kids. The majority of my time apart from tennis is school work. That’s probably what my schedule is.


The Blue and White can see the enthusiasm and love for tennis in the members of the Apopka High School Tennis team. We give them all the best luck in the upcoming matches and hope their fiery passion never wavers.