VERONA, NJ - Megan Forrest loves the self-reliance needed in tennis, while still allowing her to be part of a team.  The Verona high school tennis team captain has proven herself to be a team player this season, stepping into the No. 1 singles role when another player was sidelined and serving as role model for her teammates, making her this week's TAPinto Verona Cedar Grove Hillbilly Athlete of the Week.

"Megan is an incredible teammate. She leads by example and is always cheering on other players even while she is playing," said Head Coach Jonathan Thai.  "Her shots and mental game have improved markedly since her freshman year and she has been an invaluable asset to the Verona Tennis program throughout her high school career."

A four-year member of the varsity team, Forrest began playing tennis in kindergarten through the Verona Recreation Department.  When the original No. 1 player, Alyssa Deo, was sidelined by injury before the season even started, Forrest was called upon to take on the role -- currently holding a 3-3 record for the season so far.  

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"Alyssa injured herself during our pre-season challenge match and unfortunately she can't play this season," Forrest said.  "It's really been challenging and we miss her a lot, but I do like how we've all stepped up as a team."

For Forrest, her team is what is most important.  "I really love the girls this year -- but I think I say that every year," she noted.  "I guess it's special this year because I'm captain and can really be motherly and I've really liked how we've competed so far."

Being thrust into the No. 1 singles spot. has forced Forrest to face up to what she describes as her biggest challenge -- confidence.  

"Sometimes when I'm down by a lot, I find it hard to step up from that,"  she explained.  "But I've been able to work on that and conquer it over the years and develop more confidence and faith in myself."

That improved confidence paid off last Friday when Verona took on Columbia.  

"It ended up being a very intense match for me.  I was the last one to finish so everyone was watching me," Forrest explained. "It was probably the most pressure I've had.  It ended up in a super tiebreaker and I won so it was really great."

Looking ahead, Forrest is focused on improvement, but also on playing for the love of the game.  

"My goal fo the rest of the season is to try harder, but not be too hard on myself and let it eat at me," Forrest said.  "My coach told me you don't have to be perfect, you just have to be a little bit better than the other player in order to win -- and that really opened my eyes.  I just want myself and my team to be the best version of ourselves that we can be."

TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove  is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.

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