Next in line

April 12, 2019

MICHIGAN CITY — Marquette freshman Emily Silvas is trailing 1-4 in the third set after losing the first set 6-2 and then roaring back to take the second set 6-1, forcing a third and final set in her high school debut match agaist Crown Point on Thursday.

Her father, Blazers girls tennis coach Ray Silvas, peeks out from behind a car on Ripley Street at the Elston Tennis Courts while watching the conclusion of the No. 1 doubles match three courts down from where his youngest daughter is playing.

“If she can get it to 4-3, I think she can win it,” he says. “I should probably go say something to her, but I don’t want to get into her head. She already does that enough on her own.”

Sure enough, the younger Silvas not only gets within a point, but takes a 5-4 advantage in the set. Against his better judgment, the older Silvas gives the younger Silvas a short pep talk between points and Emily went on to win the set 7-5 and the match to start her Marquette career off on the right foot.

Ray figured it was first-match jitters for his youngest daughter and with gusty wind conditions affecting everyone on the courts, he assumed Emily got into her own head and was thinking about everything but the task at hand.

Plus, when you’re trying to fill the shoes of a freshman state finalist No. 1 singles player who transferred to another school, plus knowing the accomplishments of your older sister who played in the same program, you’d probably be nervous, too.

“That’s my dad,” Emily said. “Having him around is amazing. He can coddle you, but he’ll never do that. He’s never afraid to tell you like it is. Some coaches, it’s not the same kind of bond. He’ll tell me exactly what I’m doing wrong instead of just trying to make me feel better. That pumps me up because I like that. I like the ‘C’mon! You got it!’ ... I like that kind of stuff. It helps because he knows me more than anybody and he knows what I’m thinking.”

It’s one thing for a coach to really know a player, but it’s another thing when that player also happens to be a family member.

“It’s amazing to be able to spend that extra quality time with your child,” Ray said. “Being able to create those memories with the ups and downs of a competitive season. Just being able to be there and support them and help them learn from their mistakes in the challenges is great. Honestly, it all comes back to the time. The time is something you can’t replace.”

Ray was also Marquette’s coach while his older daughter, Kaitlyn, had a stellar tennis career at the school and is now a freshman at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

The biggest thing for the eldest Silvas? Being able to continue to build a lifelong bond with another one of his children.

“We’ve strengthened our bond as father and daughter,” Ray said on his past experiences coaching Kaitlyn. “I think it’s going to be the same with Emily. It brings things that you’re never going to forget and things you’ll cherish forever. Nobody can take that away from you.”

It’s been a longer road than expected for Emily to get her first match out of the way due to some weather complications, but nobody was more excited for Marquette’s matchup with C.P. than the Blazers’ new No. 1 singles player, following the departure of 2018 state finalist Rose Pastoret before this season started.

“It’s definitely nice to get this one out of the way because I definitely psyched myself out a bit,” Emily said with a smile after her come-from-behind win. “I’ve been playing for a long time already. I knew I needed to adapt and I was psyching myself out about the wind and realizing the other person has the same problems as you.”

The nerves were at an all-time high for Silvas before a few prior matches on the schedule were either rained out or postponed to later dates already this season.

“At school, all I could think about was the match,” Emily said. “We had three matches get cancelled, so I would walk in and be like, ‘OK, it’s just practice’, but now it was like, ‘OK, this is the real deal.’”

One main thing that helped Emily before Thursday’s match was a simple text from her big sister to help her get through the day.

“I texted her today and was like, ‘First match today!’” Emily said. “She texted back and said, ‘Really?’ It was because our matches kept getting cancelled and then she said, ‘You got this!’ and honestly, that’s all I needed from her. Because I do. I just have to realize that sometimes.”

Reach Michael Whitlow at mwhitlow@thenewsdispatch.com or (219) 214-4169. Follow him on Twitter @couldbelikemike.