STAMFORD, Conn. – Stamford’s Rachel Horton knew when she was 3 that she wanted to play tennis. And now the sport has taken her further than she could have ever imagined.
Horton, who attends the Intensity Tennis Academy in Norwalk, committed in November to play for Quinnipiac University. The former Trinity Catholic High School student overcame several serious injuries to become one of two players joining the Bobcats in the fall.
“I asked my parents (Charlie and Roberta) if I could take lessons,’’ Horton said about her early start. “I stopped playing basketball in fourth grade. That’s when tennis became the main sport. I just loved that it’s an individual sport, and it’s such a mental sport. I just like it so much more than team sports.”
Horton is ranked third in Connecticut and sixth in New England. She climbed as high as No. 27 in the national rankings and won a doubles title in the New England section.
"When I would watch her play, you see such tenacity,’’ Quinnipiac coach Mike Quitko said. “She's a very strong, well-minded player that is never out of a match. I think her work ethic combined with her ability and drive will allow her to exceed her potential."
Horton’s career has not been a continuous upward path. She reached the semifinals of the State Open as a freshman at Trinity in 2010, but injuries started to mount. She had issues with her shoulder, a dislocated knee cap and calf surgery.
After rehabilitation, Horton moved to Intensity at the beginning of her junior year in 2011 and began a home-school curriculum, allowing her more time for tennis. She started to work with learning coach Lisa Pomerance, and improved her fitness regiment to prevent injuries.
“I think I’m much tougher mentally,’’ Horton said. “It has taken my game to a whole new level. My whole game has grown since I’ve gotten here.”
The athletic and academic combination has helped her to reach her full potential, said Horton, who trains with coaches Ryan Ginley and Adam Altschuler. “I think it was important just to play more tennis and get more experience,’’ she said. “It gave me the opportunity to train all day and still learn a lot. It’s completely different than the high school experience. Tennis-wise, I was able to get my ranking back up and get seen by a lot of colleges.”
The independent study helped her to prepare for the rigor of a college workload, she said. It taught her time management and gave her educational focus, said Horton, who was one of the first students at the Intensity Academy. She will be a pre-med major at Quinnipiac.
“I think Intensity has an amazing approach,’’ Horton said. “They’re such positive coaches. They just work for you and are always there for you. They support me with everything."