By Jay Cook
HOLMDEL— If you plan on facing Brianna Gibbs on the tennis court this year, you better bring your game, because she is going to bring the heat.
Gibbs, a 17-year-old senior at Holmdel High School, is the de facto leader of a Hornets team that is currently ranked as the number two girls tennis squad in the state.
After moving to Holmdel from Buffalo, NY in time for the beginning of her sophomore season, Gibbs has taken the New Jersey tennis scene over by storm, one thunderous serve after the next.
“I have really good ball-striking abilities, and I can hit pretty hard, harder than some guys. I hit harder than most humans do,” she said after a Thursday afternoon practice.
And that is no joke. While Gibbs says that her serves have not been timed on the speed-gun recently, she feels that when at full force, it can reach upwards of 105 miles per hour.
Tennis has been a constant throughout Gibbs’ life. After being born and spending a portion of her childhood in San Diego, California, she was influenced from a young age by her parents, who played the sport as a hobby.
“When I was three years old, I picked up a racket and ever since, I’ve just been playing,” Gibbs said. “Once my parents felt that I was ready, and that I could actually put points together and not just hit one ball and be done, they signed me up for some tournaments.”
Gibbs played the majority of her tennis in Buffalo, which means she has come to enjoy playing on one specific type of court over the years.
“My favorite surface is indoor hardcourts, because my game style is pretty aggressive and I go for pretty much everything,” she said. “I hit pretty hard, so for indoors there’s no elements, and the courts are usually faster indoors which makes my balls go faster.”
Tennis is not just a seasonal undertaking for Gibbs, who practices throughout the year with John Costanzo, owner and director of Garden State Tennis Center in Edison, NJ. Costanzo played high school tennis at Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft and went on to have a successful collegiate career for the University of Michigan.
That combination of training and practicing has led to Gibbs being her own unique figure on the court.
“I like to be my own person, and I want to be the best I can be, but I do look up to Serena Williams because she always finds a way to dig herself out of situations and I’ve been trying to be as mentally strong as she is,” she said.
Her mindset is the key to Holmdel’s success. After finishing as runners-up to Millburn High School in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions last year, Gibbs feels like the Lady Hornets will be just as driven in 2016.
“We’re just very competitive, so everybody wants to be better than each other,” she said of the squad this season. “At the same time, when the season starts, we have to put that aside and we have to make sure that we’re a team and together on everything.”
It has been quite the successful start for Holmdel so far this year, as the team has shot out to a dominating 5-0 record. In those five matches, Holmdel has only lost one single set.
“Strong,” said Gibbs of her team’s makeup. “We all really want to compete the best that we can and that’s just very important. We’re all very strong minded, we know what we want and we will do pretty much anything to get it.”
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