Waterville Senior High School’s Emma Cristan already was a good tennis player as she entered her senior season. By working on a few aspects of her game, Cristan was able to make her good game better.

Cristan led the Purple Panthers to an undefeated regular season and was named Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B Player of the Year for a second consecutive season. For her efforts, Cristan is the Morning Sentinel Girls Tennis Player of the Year. Eryn Doiron, of Mt. Blue, also was considered.

“It was amazing what our team did,” said Waterville coach and Emma’s mother Jill Cristan. “Emma, as a captain, brought our team together.”

When assessing what she needed to do to improve, Emma Cristan first looked at her serve.

“I’ve just been working on getting a stronger serve and making it so I can rely more on my first serve. I relied too much on my second serve. Powder puff, get it over,” Cristan said.

Cristan focused on little things, like looking toward the middle of the court and throwing the ball higher and adjusting the angle of the toss — think 3 o’clock rather than noon.

“There were things I kept in my mind and slowly I was like ‘wow, it’s getting better.’ More powerful. I think a lot of that had to do with me being in the gym and getting stronger,” Cristan said.

Added Jill Cristan: “She needed a first serve and that was a huge improvement for her.”

Cristan also worked on developing a better backhand.

“Now I’m getting a lot of winners with my backhand. I realized (that) if I can have a strong serve and a strong backhand, that’s two things that a lot of players lack,” Cristan said.

Cristan began to see the results of her work midway through the season, particularly in a match against Morse’s Arielle Leeman. Jill Cristan expected Morse to be a tough opponent for an inexperienced Waterville team, and Leeman to be a tough midseason test for Emma. Cristan won the close match.

“That’s where my whole view of the season changed. (Leeman’s) a good player, and if I can beat her I could be successful,” Cristan said.

Jill Cristan saw Emma thinking more on the court this season, rather than just using her talent and reacting.

“She was more prepared for where she was going to put it next, and I saw that. She set up points. She was very patient. She had a plan,” coach Cristan said.

Last season, winning KVAC Player of the Year caught Cristan by surprise. This season, she said repeating the honor was a goal.

“Last season I was shocked to have gotten it. I had a successful season, but I didn’t realize I earned that accomplishment. This season, that was the goal, to get player of the year. I have no regrets on the season,” she said.

Another goal this season was to keep it fun. Before the season began, mother and daughter decided that all tennis talk would be outside the house.

“Last year, I would come home and I would dissect everything. This year I was, ‘nope, we will not talk about it.’ And we didn’t,” Jill Cristan said.

Added Emma: “Every match, my mom and I were like, ‘This is great. This is so much fun.’ We kept all of our tennis talk on the court or on the bus. We never brought it home.”

Cristan will attend the University of Maine, where she hopes to play club tennis. She considered schools that offer a varsity tennis program, but decided Orono was the best choice.

“I love my family. I love my friends. I love what I have close to home. I decided UMaine was just the better fit for me,” Cristan said. “Tennis is a lifelong sport, and if I can’t play it in college I can play it on my own for the rest of my life.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

<URL destination=””>[email protected]

</URL>Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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