For senior Hadley Berg, the passion of tennis has been instilled in her every since she can remember.
Berg cannot remember a time where she was not playing the sport, and she credits her time spent with her mom and former coach, Lisa Berg, to where she is now with her career at South Carolina. Despite learning at a young age from her mother, she still had a lot of room to grow when she came to South Carolina.
“I came in here as a freshman pretty young, and I definitely had a lot to learn," Berg said. "I kind of needed to get my butt kicked a little bit in the first couple of years. I think Kevin [Epley] definitely taught me pretty quickly how to grow up and become more independent as a person.”
Since her freshman year as a Gamecock, Hadley has been able to advance her skills and, as of March 6, 2018, holds the highest career ranking of 29 and currently tied with Natasa Vuckovic for fifth in career singles wins. The amount of growth and determination that this senior has is unmatchable.
"I think it's cool 'cause I got to see the people in front of me grow so much over their years, and kind of the people below me too, and so I think learning a lot from the coaches about ownership and accountability," Berg said. "You kind of take away confidence from the sport and from everything that you have learned over the four years that you can kind of carry out outside of a tennis world.”
The leadership role that Berg has had to take on this year has helped shape her teammates mental and physical abilities. It is her responsibility to come out to the court ready to accept her failures and lead by example both on and off the court.
“A big thing that we talked about was the purpose of why we are doing what we are doing," Berg said. "It’s kind of like we are playing for something bigger so that is something that I definitely tap into in my matches ... you are playing for your teammates and we have bigger goals and to play our best tennis by tournament time in NCAA.”
Being the only senior on the team, she has looked for inspiration from former teammate Bridget Folland and used her former leadership to build on this year's team. Berg finds strength from her team collectively and her coaches, especially assistant coach Jeff Nevolo's ability to push herself as she paves the way for upcoming Gamecocks.
"Jeff as well has been kind of with me through it all and kind of has taught me to take each day by day and not catastrophize things or make it too serious and I think helps me kind of do well these past four years and stay positive the whole time," Berg said.
From her direction as the only senior, she has been able to see the goals of her team come to life and reach their full potential this season. Berg recalls the road win against Georgia as a time where her team collectively came together to be assertive and dominate in order to see the results that they had previously prepared for.
Berg can see the growth that her team has been able to achieve during this historic season, but the same can be said about her from the rest of the team. Nevolo said the growth that she's had during her time her has helped the Gamecocks reach this success.
"I think Hadley's a great example of what having a great attitude everyday can do for your career as a player and as a leader," Nevolo said. "I think that she always had the mindset of just getting a little bit better each day and she has built up a lot of credibility from her teammates for having such a good attitude day in and day out at practice."
Berg now prepares for her final two regular season matches at Carolina Tennis Center this week before the SEC Tournament begins. She will be recognized this Saturday against Kentucky beginning at 1 p.m. for all her accomplishments and leadership that she has brought to this South Carolina team. But for Berg, the real recognition is what her team and coaches did for her over these past four years.
"Just to thank the coaches, the staff and the school for all of the opportunities that I have gotten 'cause I know that I would not be the person I am today without them ... definitely really appreciative of that," Berg said.