It’s been quite a journey for senior Celine Rongos. She picked up a racket at age seven, and now, at age twenty-one, she did so for the last time this fall.
“It definitely has not sunk in all the way yet that I’m done,” she said. “But it’s starting to, and I’m definitely going to miss it because tennis has been such a part of my life for so long.”
Growing up, Rongos played many sports – basketball, swimming and soccer – in addition to tennis, but by her sophomore year of high school, she began focusing solely on tennis.
Her father trained Rongos for most of her career, making her sport a family affair. She and her brother – who now plays at Indiana Wesleyan – would often practice together, pushing each other to be better, she said.
“We were competitive like any other siblings would be,” she said.
The Columbia City native decided to continue her career at HU after visiting and feeling at home with the team and the coaching staff right away.
“My teammates are like my sisters,” she said. “We’re all very focused when it’s match time, but we also like to laugh a lot and have fun.”
Tennis, however, is a sport known for its demand of concentration. Rongos learned by playing, she said, to produce a high level of mental toughness to succeed.
“Over the years, my mental toughness has increased dramatically,” she said “And every time I step on the court, it’s like I’m in my own bubble because I am so focused on myself and my game.”
Rongos credits much of the success she and her doubles partner Morgan Bemisderfer had to their ability to balance the mental and physical sides of the game with the need for encouragement and relaxation.
“We improved because we are good friends off the court,” she said. “I feel that gave us an advantage on the court, and we’re both very competitive, so we always strive to play our best.”
Rongos’ teammate and roommate Conny Golz said Rongos always puts others first, no matter how stressful the demands of being a student-athlete become.
“Celine is a great teammate because she is one of the most selfless people I know,” Golz said. “She always puts the team before her and is always there for every single one on the team.”
With her tennis career behind her, Rongons said that focus and mental toughness she learned on the court will continue to aid her in her future career as a nurse.
“I think God put me in tennis for a reason, and it truly has helped me grow as an individual,” she said. “Even though there were times that were tough, and I did not want to play anymore. But I’m glad he put me on the path he did because I would not have been able to play the sport I enjoy.”