Connor Bruce doesn’t listen to noise. So if there was ever any pressure to skip out on the Peters Township High School team to focus more on his own individual game, he certainly didn’t hear it.
“I played high school tennis because of the guys — because of the team feel,” said Bruce, now a freshman at the University of Dayton. “You’re representing something bigger than yourself out there. Whether it’s a high school or a college, you’re playing for the court next to you and your school.”
It’s not an outlook always taken on by high-level junior players. While some opt to skip high school play in order to spend more time in individual tournaments and lessons, Bruce found a way to use high school tennis to his advantage, building relationships while improving his game along the way. That led to a WPIAL singles championship, a PIAA doubles title and relationships he won’t soon forget.
“I had a lot of fun meeting different kids and working with them,” he said. “You see someone doing things differently and it makes you think and maybe do things better. For me, high school tennis was pretty motivating.”
Also motivating? How about growing up with a mother like Marcy Bruce, who is one of the most highly-respected coaches in Pennsylvania. Bruce coaches a variety of programs at Upper St. Clair Tennis Development Program Inc. in Pittsburgh, and has become best-known for her impact on delivering and running Cardio Tennis.
“We talk about tennis every day,” Connor said with a laugh. “We talk about ways to get better, things to work on. She’s always checking in and helping out.
“One thing I know for sure, is I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for my family and everything they’ve done for me.”
Bruce’s work ethic and academic efforts led to an early high school graduation, allowing him to enroll early in the University of Dayton. While his first season was cut short, his performance on campus was an impressive one. He was the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week a total of five times and was recently selected as Rookie of the Year for Dayton at the school’s Rudy Awards.
He’s shown promise in his young career as the future of the Dayton team while studying operations and supply management, managing the always-difficult balance of schoolwork and time on the tennis court.
“Between going to class, studying and of course practicing and traveling, it’s a tough balance,” he said. “But I feel like I was prepared for this. I definitely enjoy it and I’m looking forward to the next few years.”