Mariah Mandulak finds her stroke on tennis court

Maria Mandulak is surrounded by family and coaches when she signed a letter of intent to play women's tennis at Albertus Magnus College.

Maria Mandulak is surrounded by family and coaches when she signed a letter of intent to play women's tennis at Albertus Magnus College.

Shelton High Athletics / Contributed photo

Mariah Mandulak took up tennis a bit later than most of her teammates at Shelton High.

“I went out for tennis my junior year,” said Mandulak, who is swinging the racket at Albertus Magnus College. “Even though I was new to it, coach (Michelle) Sedlock was so patient teaching me. Everyone was supportive and that made it fun.”

Sedlock said, “Mariah will do fine at Albertus because she has a solid work ethic and the ability to balance schoolwork and athletics and be successful on and off the court.”

Mandulak played No. 3 singles midway through the year, and then switched to No. 2 doubles.

“I like a variety of experiences, but playing doubles is difficult to adjust to. The majority of the time I played doubles with Eunice Kim and we went to states, which was exciting.”

Mandulak played basketball since the third grade and competed her four-year stay with the Gaelettes and coach Joe Cavallaro this past winter.

“Basketball is a team sport and playing as a unit is important,” she said. “I loved that aspect of working toward one goal as a group.

“Tennis, especially singles, the result rides on your shoulders. That is hard, but you know it’s all on you if you win or lose. I don’t believe that tennis players, and the sport itself, get the respect it deserves. People who don’t play think it’s just about getting the ball over the net.”

Mandulak pointed out other factors.

“There is so much technique involved in playing,” she said. “It’s both a physical and a mental challenge. The strokes — backhand, backspin, drop shot, flat, forehand, groundstroke, half volley, lob — are difficult to learn, let alone to master.

“Then, there is weather conditions. Playing in the wind or the rain changes everything day to day.

“The best part of tennis is competing, and when other matches are completed, hearing your teammates cheering you on. You become so close, it’s like having another family.”

Attending Albertus, where Mandulak is studying business management, offers her more than she bargained for when she chose to attend the New Haven-based school.

“My tennis coach (Bob Migliorini) asked me if I played other sports,” Mandulak said. “When I told him about basketball, coach (J.R. Fredette) reached out to me and put me on the roster.

“Like Shelton, I love the support and closeness of those I met at Albertus. It’s like an extension of high school, but with new friends, new courses to study, and new challenges to be met.”

Mandulak played No 2 singles, winning 7-5, 4-6, 10-5, in the Falcons’ non-conference match with Lesley University at Harvard University on Sunday. She teamed with junior Jessica Coughlin from Durham to earn an 8-7 (14-12) victory at No. 1 doubles.

Albertus is back in action on Saturday, Sept. 7, with a home Great Northeast Athletic Conference tilt against Johnson & Wales University. First serve is set for 1 p.m. at the Celentano Courts.