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Profile: Sarah Mahar comes back full swing

by Sarah Killip - Staff Photographer
Tue, Sep 17th 2019 11:00 pm
Junior tennis player Sarah Mahar returns a shot in her match against SUNY Fredonia on Saturday, Sept. 14. Mahar played softball during her first two years at Brockport.
Junior tennis player Sarah Mahar returns a shot in her match against SUNY Fredonia on Saturday, Sept. 14. Mahar played softball during her first two years at Brockport.

When looking at junior tennis player Sarah Mahar’s record so far this season, one would not have guessed this was her first time back on the court since high school. More commonly known for her outstanding presence on The College at Brockport softball team, Mahar decided to switch things up for her junior year. 

During her freshman season on the softball team, Mahar tore her ACL and meniscus while running from first to second base. This tear required surgery and led to a summer full of crutches, physical therapy and an uncomfortable, itchy brace. It also meant softball would have to be put on hold for a little while. 

Mahar started playing competitive softball at the young age of seven. Her speed led her to play outfield in high school, which became the position she would continue to play in college. The University of Scranton, Nazareth College and Marywood University are just a few of the many schools that were interested in Mahar. 

To keep in shape during softball’s off season in high school, Mahar played tennis; a sport she found herself to be a natural in. 

“I wanted to stay involved in athletics, and just went out and played for fun,” Mahar said. “I wouldn’t touch a racket until the following tennis season; it was a sport I always enjoyed, but softball had my heart.” 

Heading into her sophomore season at Brockport, Mahar had to sit out of fall softball practices. She had not yet gained enough muscle back and ended up failing her function test. More physical therapy was endured, but Mahar still did not feel as though she was where she needed to be. She began doing “half practices,” or half of what everyone else did. 

“I couldn’t base-run, I had to modify how I played in the outfield, I couldn’t cut back and forth,” Mahar said. 

Come March, Mahar was fully cleared to play. Even with this clearance, she still felt hesitant on the field and decided it would be best to not play that coming season as she was not fully confident in her ability. Still wanting to be involved athletically on campus, Mahar was considering club tennis. Her softball coach, John Dumaw, suggested she try out for the varsity team and helped her set up a meeting with head tennis coach Ed Gonzalez. The team was low on players and Mahar decided to give it a shot. 

“Coach Dumaw was really supportive with my transition to tennis,” Mahar said. “He came to our meet at Nazareth with a bunch of softball girls to support me at the meet.” 

Injuries can build physical, mental and emotional walls for an athlete. Determined not to let this happen, Mahar made the transition from softball to tennis as easy as she could. 

“Being on first base and having to run to second, just thinking back to that one time I ran and hurt myself, it made it hard,” Mahar said. “With tennis I don’t have that fear. Physically, I think tennis is a lot more demanding on my body than softball was, it’s constant movement. However, my knee is stronger now and I know nothing will happen to it when I play.” 

The mental transition between sports was different and challenging. Mahar channeled any emotion she felt from leaving softball into her academics. 

“I let school be my stress reliever,” Mahar said. “It kept my mind off of the fact I couldn’t play softball anymore.” 

While Mahar was supported a lot by Dumaw, her former teammates were also affected by her move to tennis. Mahar was a beloved teammate and is missed by many of the current softball players, including junior Julia Palopoli. 

“Sarah has always been a great friend on and off the field,” Palopoli said. “She always worked hard and brought positivity to the field everyday. To have her leave was definitely sad, but watching her grow and move on to something new that she loves is amazing and I’m so proud of her. She will always be a part of our team.” 

Mahar mentioned the relationships she built with her softball teammates were strong, and she will always continue to support them. However, she is thrilled with how the start of her collegiate tennis career has begun. 

“I’ve never been happier than right now, playing tennis,” Mahar said. “I love the girls on the team, and seeing success and proving myself has created such a positive environment.” 

Elizabeth Bean, a senior on the tennis team, feels Mahar had a great transition between sports both physically and socially. 

“She is so friendly and easy going, she fit right in,” Bean said. “Sarah brings a positive attitude and a strong sense of athleticism everyday. She always gives 100%.” 

As for Mahar herself, she is just grateful for the opportunity to be a student athlete. 

“I love the atmosphere of the athletics department,” Mahar said. “You have a role, are involved and can be a leader on campus.” 

Despite the promising start to her tennis career, Mahar still plans on coaching softball in the future. 

“It’s more than just winning medals and trophies,” she said. “It’s about lessons. I’ve learned so many lessons through my athletic career that I can bring into college and real life. The experience is unmatched.” 

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Taken by Vincent Croce:
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