NEW CASTLE —
Tessa Sikora has a quiet fury.
Whether on the volleyball or basketball courts or on the track, she was focused on helping Wilmington High succeed. Even though she was taller than most of her teammates, she never wanted any of the focus. Sikora was just happy blending in and going to work.
However, all eyes are on her now as Lawrence County’s Female Athlete of the Year as selected by the New Castle News sports staff. The award is sponsored by Washington Centre Physical Therapy.
“I think Tessa is one of the athletes I have observed over the years who just got stronger and stronger in her three sports. That’s what you want to see. She just kept getting stronger and stronger,” Wilmington track and field head coach J.R. McFarland said. “I told her that even though she is the quiet athlete and not real vocal, you know she is performing. She kind of glides under the radar. You may not hear her name a lot, but she makes an impact. She has had a very strong four years. We are very proud of her. She is very deserving of this honor.”
Sikora was a volleyball, basketball and track and field standout for the Lady Greyhounds. At her graduation party on Sunday, she had a chance to reflect on her athletic career.
“It’s definitely amazing how quickly it’s gone by. It hasn’t really hit me that it’s over, but that party definitely was an eye opener. It was one of the last times I might ever see some people,” she said. “I never really realized it during school, but I looked back at everything and I never thought I could accomplish as much as I did.”
Listed at 6 feet, Sikora was blessed with height. However, it was up to her to develop the athleticism and determination to complement it.
“Being tall was probably the biggest advantage. I definitely grew into that. I wasn’t very coordinated when I first started playing sports in middle school,” she said. “People see the height and they are kind of deceived, because I am skinny. It was all about determination. You have to go out there and show them what you got. Looking back, I never would have believed I would have come this far with anything.”
As a middle hitter, Sikora was one of District 10’s top volleyball players. She guided the Lady ’Hounds to the D-10 Class AA semifinals and earned Region 3-AA Player of the Year laurels.
“She is probably one the most-athletic kids I have seen growing up from beginning to end. She started playing for me in seventh grade. To watch the progression from seventh grade to her senior year and how much she changed and progressed was great,” Wilmington volleyball coach Amber Marett said. “She put a lot of hard work into it and it paid off for her. We are going to miss her a lot this year. I can’t say enough about her. She is a good kid all the way around. She works hard and works to be a leader. She really progressed.”
Sikora finished her senior year with 413 kills, 183 digs, 157 points, 92 blocks and 29 aces.
“Volleyball was kind of my anger management,” she said. “Every time I hit the ball, I just felt a little bit better.”
While her play stood out in D-10, it helped inspire some of the younger Wilmington players.
“She was one of the first in the gym and one of the last to leave and would put extra time in when things didn’t go right. I am seeing the benefits of that. This year’s team will be young and inexperienced. Because of the example that was set by Tessa and some of the older girls, we have 19 or 20 girls in the gym for summer practices that are not mandatory. The kids are buying into it because of the example that was set. It trickles down through the whole program.
“Most of the girls would come in and help out with the junior high practices. Tessa was there when she could be for the junior high team. It’s cool to see she is willing to give back to the program as well.”
Sikora was being a leader even though she was not trying to stand out.
“Looking back at it now, people have come up to me and said they are going to miss me and I was such a good role model,” she said. “I never really thought about it. I was just trying to win and help out the team.”
On the hardwood, Sikora was among the area’s best interior presences and was voted to the Region 2-AA first team. The forward averaged a double-double on the year. She was third in Lawrence County in scoring at 15.6 points per game and pulled down more than 10 boards each contest.
She was extremely steady as she reached double figures in 22 of 23 games and posted a season-high of 28 in a thrilling 72-67 victory over Laurel.
“She really is consistent. She always works hard. She is one of those athletes that every coach wants because she listens and tries to the best of her ability to do what you ask of her,” said Brandy Sanford, who coached her in basketball. “She was quiet. Lots of times, that’s the best kind of athlete to have. She is not about the show. She just does what she has to do and performs her assignment and is happy when she is successful doing that.”
Sikora excelled both on the track and in the jumps. She earned a silver medal in the high jump and a bronze in the 200-meter at the D-10 championship meet at Harbor Creek. She had solid showings in the triple jump (bronze) and long jump (sixth).
“Tessa was a very strong track and field athlete for us. As a sprinter, she could run the 100, 200, 400, and do long jump, triple jump and high jump. We had her do the shot and discus a couple times. She has been a very, very strong track and field athlete for us over the last four years,” McFarland said. “It’s a real advantage to have an athlete you can move around. The thing I will always remember was her unselfishness to do whatever we needed done for the team.
“At the district track meet the girls won by two points, we scored it out and we couldn’t find where we were going to beat Villa Maria. They had a very strong team and we figured they had a good shot of winning it,” he continued. “We decided to move her out of the 4x100 relay and have her participate in the long jump. She was very willing to do that. Not only did she do that and get us points in the long jump and get us points in over events, but the girl we put in for her in the 4x100, we got points we weren’t counting on. In all four events at that meet, Tessa scored 23 out of our 102 points. Her performance was huge. That’s the advantage of having someone who is willing to move around. Our girls all did a super job and she came up with a huge performance.”
At the PIAA championship meet, Sikora closed her high school career when she placed fifth in her heat in the 200 (27.46) and 18th in the high jump (4-10).
“I loved all three sports, but volleyball was definitely my favorite,” she said. “Basketball is fun to get in there and get physical. That is more of an aggressive sport. In track, I loved meeting new people and looking over to the lane beside me and being challenged. Whenever that gun would go off or you’d go for a jump attempt, there’s nothing quite like that feeling. I wanted to be involved in all those sports. It was nice because it kept you in shape all year round.”
The one sport she didn’t get a chance to try?
“I always wanted to try tennis, but I never got the opportunity,” she said. “Playing those three was very time consuming. I definitely had to plan ahead. I had to sort everything out. I pretty much made myself a schedule before I’d go to events, because they overlapped a lot. I’d go straight from volleyball practice to basketball, at times. You definitely get tired of working out, but you have to realize that you get better by working harder.”
Sikora will attend Edinboro University this fall. She is not sure whether she will participate in athletics. However, her high school coaches have no doubt she’d succeed if she does.
“A lot of kids think they can play college athletics, but a lot don’t have the mentality,” Sanford said. “I think she does. If she wants to focus on her education, that is fantastic. That’s a tribute to the kind of person she is. She works hard and doesn’t expect recognition for it. She will be successful in whatever she chooses to do. She has that drive to do well.”
It’s a silent fury that doesn’t go away.
NEW CASTLE —
Tessa Sikora has a quiet fury.
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