Prep Tennis: Seniseng steps up as leader
Emily Seniseng is both a team player and leader in one of the sports which tends to focus on the individual.
She is one of the team’s two captains this season for the Van Buren tennis program.
“She has no problem being in charge,” said coach Brandy Mosby. “She is detailed, very organized, remembers everything, and the best part is she is the definition of leading by example.
“If you ask anyone on the team, who is always the one putting stuff up, reminding everyone of what to bring, taking it upon themself to make sure everyone has what they need before a match — they would tell you, Emily.”
Seniseng would be the last one off the bus to make sure no one left anything behind, an example she followed from her brother and former Van Buren standout TJ Seniseng. She got involved in tennis because her brother and her dad played and was curious about the sport. She began to play competitively in the middle of her sixth-grade year.
“I do have a lot of fun watching my family play,” Saniseng said. “[Tennis] is just fun to play and the team is always fun to be around.”
One day the team wasn’t responding well to the drills so the coach had Saniseng give the team a talk during a break.
“I take a look over there and Emily, who is one of the smallest kids on our team, was standing on the table [of the pavilion] making demands,” said Mosby. “We restarted the drill and it was like a brand new team. I still don’t know what Emily said to them.”
Dealing with the new guidelines due to the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 has been a challenge for her Seniseng and the rest of the team.
“We’ve had to wear our masks during practice (when we’re not actually hitting),” said Saniseng. “It’s been a bit difficult as no one is used to it but I think it’s going okay and we’re doing our best to adjust.”
Mosby said her senior is also a conscientious student.
“She has her priorities in the right place and her grades are first,” Mosby said. “She is never too busy to lend a helping though, whether it is for someone who needs some help in math, re-stringing or regripping someone’s racket, or helping any of the kids in our middle school and junior high tennis program.
“She wears a lot of hats and is always volunteering her time for others. She makes sure all of our new teammates, mostly freshmen, never have to worry about a ride, getting food before a match, or making sure she gets their water jug so she can have ice in it before we pick them up at the academy. She is the mom.”
Seniseng sees the new conference as an opportunity for the team.
“We have to focus on the game we’re playing and not the future ones or if we’re even good enough to play. I think if we can all keep a strong mindset anything will be possible,” said Seniseng. “We put our trust and support in each other. Everyone practices hard… but I think that’s just a bonus.”
The senior is currently 3-1 overall and 2-0 in the 5A West.
She had her first loss on Aug. 21 and turned around to play two more matches the following day to start conference play.
Mosby said that Seniseng isn’t like a majority of athletes. “Even in a tough loss she will walk off the court smiling as if she knows she did all she could,” said the coach. “We don’t see that much these days and it’s really hard to teach.”
Seniseng struggled against the Vilonia player and fell behind 1-4.
“When Emily gets to that point, she just has to find a way to calm herself down and play one point at a time,” Mosby said. “I mean she basically gritted her teeth (I swear I could hear her doing this from outside the fence) and clawed her way back inch by inch.”
Seniseng was down 1-5, won three straight games. Her opponent won the next two games and was a game away from winning the match. Seniseng kept fighting back and won the next five to win 9-7.
“I guess I overcome all the bad things when I realize my team is watching and I can’t be a bad example to them,” Saniseng said. “I realized that we would only play them once and if I had lost the game then there would be a chance I would be placed lower when an even more important match happens. I couldn’t let that happen, so I stepped up my game and played the best I could.”