Dover’s Synoski has Division I aspirations

Erika Synoski. Delaware State News file photo

DOVER — Though the high school tennis season ended in May, the work hasn’t stopped for Dover High’s Erika Synoski.

The rising junior has spent five days a week training at the High Performance Tennis Academy near Philadelphia this summer. When the new school year begins this week, it’ll go down to three days a week.

Her 11-year tennis career started when the 16-year-old saw a tennis match on television when she was just five years of age.

She knew right away that tennis is something she wanted to try.

Her parents, Ed and Karin Synoski, found an instructor who could give her lessons locally. Five years later, at the age of 10, Erika started regularly competing in tournaments.

Erika received junior lessons from Jeff Pickering in Dover as a young child before she started competing.

“I just saw tennis on T.V. and I just thought I wanted to try it,” Erika explained. “My parents signed me up for local lessons and it just kept progressing from there.

“When I was about 10, I started tournaments and just about a year ago I really wanted to take my game to the next level,” she continued. “So, now I’m training in Philadelphia about three times a week. That has really helped me improve a lot.”

Though her father, Ed, had some tennis experience in high school, he claims Erika’s interest in tennis at a young age was completely on her own.

Her two sisters, Emily and Paige, have played sports as well, but neither of them ever got into tennis.

“My tennis experience was long forgotten about by the time she was born and by the time she was five years old,” he joked. “To this day, I don’t know what piqued her interest.”

Synoski, commuting a combined four hours to the performance center in Philly, now competes in two to three tournaments per month, which has taken her up and down the east coast.

“She competes all over the region, and she’s also been to South Carolina, Florida and Texas,” Ed said. “She’s trying to get into some other national events now, all over the country really.”

A few weeks ago, Synoski competed in the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Zone National Level 2 Team championships, also known as “Zonals,” in Southland, Texas.

It was her second consecutive year qualifying and competing in the national tournament.

As one of the top 16-and-under players in her section, which is made up of players from Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Synoski was picked to join some of the other top players in the area at the national tournament.

The Delaware, Pennsylvania and Jersey participants teamed up and competed against other sections from across the country.

She has played approximately 20 combined matches over the last two years at Zonals, winning about half of them, against some of the top talent in her age group.

“I feel like I did really well, and it was a lot of fun playing in the team environment,” Erika said of the experience. “You get to cheer on your teammates, and it’s with a lot of people I knew already because I see some of them in local tournaments.

“After the matches, we get to go out to dinner, there are different tourist attractions and landmarks we can go see and we just kind of explore because it’s a totally different place. So, it was a lot of fun.”

Synoski has always wanted to play tennis in college, but it was just about a year ago – when she started taking lessons and playing tourneys at the tennis center in Philly – that she realized she wanted it to be Division I tennis.

“I knew I wanted to play in college,” she said. “But then I was like, ‘OK, I want to take this a little more seriously and really improve.’ Now, I know I want to hopefully play Division I college tennis and I knew training in Philadelphia would really help me get there.”

“The last year alone, since she’s been going up to Philadelphia, I would say that the change in the last year was more than all of the other years put together,” Ed said. “That’s how dramatic of a difference it’s been, and she’s definitely taking her game to the next level to compete at the national and collegiate level.

Entering her junior year at Dover, Synoski has been proactive in her own recruitment and says she’s reached out to about 50 Division I programs so far. She’s started to garner some interest from a few of those programs.

“I’ve started to contact coaches, send them emails and stuff,” she explained. “Some of them have started to contact me and I stay in touch with them, which is good to keep the recruitment process going.”

In her two seasons playing for the Senators, Synoski has earned a state title and finished as a state runner-up. She grabbed the title at the second singles position as a freshman and finished as the first singles runner-up as a sophomore this past spring.

She was the Henlopen Conference champion both years.

A member of the National Honor Society and an AP student at Dover, Synoski is currently ranked third in her class academically.

“Tennis has taught me about independence, discipline and strength,” she said. “I just like tennis so much that I’ve stuck with it. It has really helped me grow as a person and not just an athlete.

“My focus right now is to just put in 100 percent effort and know that every day is a new day to improve every part of my game.”

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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