MATCH POINT: Seabreeze's Gibbons geared up for college tennis
Elizabeth Gibbons always envisioned herself starring on a college soccer team. Soccer was her passion, the thing she devoted all of her after school hours to ever since she first picked up the game at 6 years old.
Then came tennis.
It started as an extra activity to do with her sibling. It turned into what defined her high school career.
Elizabeth made the team as the No. 5 seed and after three weeks was already the squad’s No. 2 player. It was at this point where she realized her talent.
“I loved soccer to death, and I was a decent player,” said Elizabeth, who played on the Sandcrabs’ junior varsity soccer team. “But with tennis, I could stand out more.”
Still, Elizabeth’s heart belonged to soccer. But a car crash in November of her sophomore year forced her to choose between the two sports. Elizabeth was in the passenger’s seat when her friend drifted off the road and hit a tree. The passenger’s side door was ripped off and crushed. Elizabeth suffered a torn labrum in her right hip as well as ruptured and herniated discs throughout her back. Sports were a no-go for that entire school year.
When she returned for her junior year, doctors advised her to stick to one sport. She chose tennis because it put less stress on her body.
Completely healed by December 2017, she picked up a racket for the first time since her freshman campaign.
And although leaving behind soccer was a tough transition for her, Elizabeth is happy with her decision. The accident gave her a whole new perspective. She used to dread waking up and falling out of bed for practice or hot, sweat-drenched days on the court. But not anymore.
“It was humbling knowing that anything can be taken away at any second,” she said. “It taught me that every day you’re out there, you should be thankful. I feel like I have the opportunity to play my best, and I leave everything on the court now versus before.”
Her return to tennis in her junior year didn’t go as planned, however. She was rusty and out of shape, and the competition was much more menacing.
“Having to play matches was so different from practice,” she said. “It hurt my confidence. It was horrible. I thought I sucked, that I couldn’t beat anyone.”
She entered that summer with a complete re-dedication to the sport.
She practiced harder, training with the area’s top young tennis players at the John Hudson Tennis Academy in Daytona Beach. She enrolled in a summer camp, where she practiced five hours a day nearly every day of the week. And, she registered for tournaments all around the state.
“It got me into a groove,” she said. “I wasn’t thinking about the past, about sucking. It got my confidence up.”
The hard work paid off. Gibbons recently signed her national letter of intent to play college tennis for Division I program Holy Cross. Elizabeth always imagined herself playing a sport in college — even though it wasn’t the sport she grew up playing.
“It’s hard to believe that this is all happening,” she said. “Plans change all the time. I kind of figured that out my freshman year. It’s definitely odd (that I’m not playing soccer), but I’m in a place now where tennis is my love.”