VERONA, NJ - Verona tennis player Connor Silvia set a goal for himself this season: to keep on winning. That is something he has done all season long, which is why Silvia is this week’s TAP into Verona/Cedar GroveHillbilly Athlete of the Week.

“I am extremely humbled to have the honor of being named Athlete of the Week,” Silvia said.

Silvia has had his best season by far, the Verona High School senior and Hillbillies co-captain said. He and his partner Henry Noren currently have a 14-1 record going into the sectional semifinals.

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“We just came off a huge win against Caldwell and look forward to carrying the positive energy into our next match where we hope to upset New Providence in the semis,” Silvia said.

That win against Caldwell in the sectional quarterfinals has been a highlight of not just Silvia’s season, but the whole team’s. Being seeded lower than Caldwell, the Hillbillies had to go on the road and play their opponent, and although it was a tight match throughout, Verona came out on top 4-1.

“Playing first doubles, myself and Henry Noren dropped the first set, 7-5, but reeled off the next two sets, 6-4, 6-4, to win the third point for Verona, clinching the overall match,” Silvia said. “This was such a massive win because we were road warriors, going into Caldwell and eliminating them on their home court.”

That win was far from Verona’s only success this season. As a team, the Hillbillies have a 19-5 record and recently advanced to the semifinals of the state sectional tournament. The team’s recent big wins “really capture the group’s tenacity and drive to achieve the very best,” Silvia said.

While the Hillbillies have been successful lately, Silvia said it took an upsetting loss to really motivate the players to step up their game. At the county tournament – a tournament Verona is usually very successful in – the Hillbillies lost early on and were sent home, but that only made the boys want to be even more competitive in future games.

“That week served as a good wake-up call for both myself and my team because we realized there were better teams out there that were working harder than us,” Silvia said. “It was after this that we began to up our game to be more competitive in the big matches, something that has definitely helped us in the long-run.”

As the Hillbillies grew and improved this year, so did Silvia. He made it his goal to not stop winning and educate the younger generation as best as he could before he and his fellow seniors graduate. Although that goal has been tested, Silvia said he believes he and his teammates have done a good job achieving that goal and have really persevered on the court.

Someone who would agree with Silvia is Coach Jonathan Thai, who sees Silvia as an invaluable member on the tennis team.

“His leadership throughout this season has been invaluable. He has been a vocal leader both on and off the court and always puts team first,” Thai said. “He has played an integral part in all of our matches playing predominantly at first doubles with his partner Henry Noren.”

Playing doubles is a dynamic setting and takes good energy between the two players in order for the team to succeed. That dynamic between Silvia and Noren is also what has helped Verona succeed this season in tennis. Silvia and Noren have played doubles together in the past, which Silvia said has helped them understand each other on the court.

Another thing that has helped the star player succeed in the game is his passion for the sport.

“I like to think that I’m pretty good. I think it’s always fun to do something you’re good at,” Silvia said. “I think I love tennis so much because I always feel that there is room for improvement. There are so many different areas that I can get better in, allowing myself to work hard while simultaneously having fun.”