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Tennis: Amelia Honer making big impact in Big West


It’s walking distance from the UC Santa Barbara tennis center to the beach.

Yet that temptation did not distract Amelia Honer – or her Gauchos teammates – last spring.

Newtown’s Honer won the Big West Freshman of the Year this past May. Honer – in singles or doubles – had three different seven-match win streaks for the conference champion Gauchos. She earned a spot on the Big West singles second team and paired with teammate Kira Reuter for conference first team doubles honors.

“College tennis was a big adjustment from playing junior tennis. I definitely struggled in the fall,” Honer admitted. “My coaches did a really good job of making sure that the mental aspect of all of our games was as good as it could be every day, and of maintaining that positive attitude throughout the fall when maybe things weren’t going as well.

“The mental side is where I felt like I grew the most,” Honer added. “That is all due to the coaches.”

Council Rock North’s Honer claimed the Big West Player of the Week twice last season – once on March 2, when she went 4-0 in matches and again eight weeks later when her two wins helped UCSB claim its fourth straight Big West regular season crown.

“Amelia’s addition to our UCSB team has been impactful. She brings positive energy and a high level of play to each practice,” emailed UCSB coach Simon Thibodeau. “She is also a lot of fun to be around for everyone on the team. Her performances in singles and doubles are consistent at every match. She brings stability to the lineup in both singles and doubles.”

She and Reuter closed the year by winning 13 of their last 16 matches. “I admire her. When I got here, she was super-welcoming to me and we immediately had a good relationship,” Honer shared. “I think it starts there. Because we have such a good relationship, we can create that tennis relationship with it. We have fun with it, we want to win and play well together.”

Two days after she earned the individual conference accolades, Honer got to celebrate team success. A peaking UCSB beat Kansas in the first round of the NCAAs to mark the second tournament triumph in Gauchos history.

“She was one of the key elements for our team in improving our national ranking from 51 to 22,” Thibodeau continued. “Amelia defeated players from USC, TCU, Texas Tech and clinched a historic UCSB win against Stanford.” On March 22, Honer won both a singles and doubles point as UCSB finally beat 20-time national champion Stanford for the first time in school history.

Think rushing for 200 yards in Tuscaloosa to beat Nick Saban’s Alabama football team. The performance was that big.

Honer’s singles victory clinched the Gauchos’ team victory. “That was probably, so far, my favorite moment in college tennis,” Honer said. “It was a really cool moment. You have to win four points, so obviously my team put up other points. It wasn’t just me but it was cool to be out there” for the final point.

“I like that tennis is an individual sport and it all comes down to you. I like taking it by the horns,” Honer continued. “It was fun having my team and coaches there cheering me on. That was a really great moment for our team and I feel like that the Stanford match set the tone for our season.”

It’s not a surprise that Honer is flourishing. She won the PIAA 3A girls championship in 2019 and while you were in lockdown, defended it in 2020. She also won the USTA 18-and-under National Clay Court championships the July after her North graduation.

The surprise is that CR North’s Honer … played for CR North. Most junior players with Honer’s skill level forego high school tennis entirely. “Another big part of my tennis and my life in general has been balance,” Honer recalled. “My coaches were really nice about letting me kind of do my own thing: playing in tournaments and doing drills. But I also wanted to play tennis and have fun with it. To not have so much pressure, to see my friends, play for a school and play for a team. Playing high school tennis was that perfect balance for me. I’m really glad that I did it.”

Honer first picked up a racket when she was “7 or 8.” Her father introduced her to the game.

“I liked how I was in control and how I was going to win or how I was going to lose,” Honer described. “I’ve always tried to look at tennis as getting better each day. I played tournaments. I wanted to do well and have big goals but I also just wanted to enjoy playing and the tennis itself. I think that has really helped to keep my love for the game strong.”

A big portion of Honer’s tennis success stems from her ability to balance tennis in the overall scheme of her life. She played competitive soccer for as long as she could, and now she is picking up golf.

“A lot of my friends and peers have reached that point of burnout and it’s really sad,” Honer observed. “I feel really lucky to have good parents, good coaches and good people around me to allow me to maintain that balance.”

The coaches and location first attracted Honer to UC Santa Barbara, who finished last year ranked 22. “When I went on my visit, I loved the school and loved the girls,” Honer remembers. “I thought it was the perfect balance of academics, tennis and everything that I wanted.”

Honer, a global studies major with an interest in international business, also thrives in the classroom. “Amelia maintained a GPA above 3.5 in a rigorous UCSB academic curriculum,” Thibodeau pointed out. “We look forward to another great year from Amelia when September comes around.”