Not much bothered North Penn junior Esha Velaga on the court during her first season of high school tennis.
That will happen when you lose just one set the entire season.
For her talent and her accomplishments Velaga has been named The Reporter/Times Herald/Montgomery Media Girls Tennis Player of the Year.
“It was fun being on a team,” Velaga said of her season with the Knights. “Everyone is supporting each other, it’s a fun environment.”
The Velaga name is a familiar one at Hershey as sister Neha, now playing at Princeton, won the state title back in 2018.
Maybe not as boisterous as the Williams sisters, the Velaga sisters are certainly making themselves a household name in the high school tennis and junior tennis circuit.
Esha Velaga had time to talk after competing in the National Indoor Championships in Indianapolis where she posted a record of 3-2. She is currently ranked 50th nationally in the 18 and under division.
“I could have won more matches,” Velaga said.
Losing was not something Velaga did in her high school season, posting a record of 17-0 and losing just that one set to Pennsbury’s Noor Heiba.
Her season ended up with plenty of gold, including titles in the SOL Colonial Singles Tournament, District 1-3A Tournament and the PIAA 3A Tournament.
She defeated Unionville’s Grace Li in the finals of both districts and states, both in straight sets.
“It was definitely fun,” Velaga said of the state title. “The girls who won (Methacton’s Alice Liang and Hana Nouaime in doubles) are my friends. A lot of the girls I train with were there.”
While she didn’t lose this season for North Penn, her tennis career got off to an inauspicious start. Although at just 8 years old, she lost her first match in the 10-and-under division in her first tournament.
“I wasn’t nervous only because the girl I was playing was really good,” Velaga said.
Older sister Neha started the tennis bug in the family and Esha caught it at a young age. Esha was often chasing Neha’s level of play and is getting closer every day.
While Esha has an impressive Universal Tennis Rating of 9.65, her sister Neha is still a little ahead with one of 10.13. By comparison current US Open champion Emma Radacanu checks in at 12.70.
“We always tried to be better then each other,” Esha Velaga said of playing Neha. “We always got to hit with each other. She was better than me. It’s definitely more competitive now although we haven’t played in a while.”
Velaga, who considers herself an aggressive baseliner, now trains 5-6 times a week at HPTA in Bala Cwynwyd under the watchful eye of Dylan Comerford, playing about 12 hours of tennis a week there. That’s the sacrifice it takes to be a nationally ranked tennis player.
“It’s definitely a lot of commitment,” Velaga said. “It’s fun being on the courts. It doesn’t feel like work.”
Tennis has held her attention for over 10 years, still leading to a full-time tournament schedule this year. She tried swimming, but not many other sports.
“It’s just so different than other sports,” Velaga said. “You have to figure out stuff for yourself. You are just relying on yourself. It can be hard, but it can also be rewarding.”
Velaga will next head to Orlando, Florida for the Winter Nationals around Christmas time. The humble NP junior doesn’t look too far ahead, usually just to the next match.
“I definitely want to play in college,” Velaga said. “I am not 100 percent sure where.”
As for that question the North Penn athletic department would like to know …
“I am definitely thinking about it,” said Velaga of playing high school tennis next season.
If she does, you get the feeling she won’t be thinking about another state title, just her first match.
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