By Jim Sullivan
---- — Amesbury girls tennis senior co-captains Stephanie Abraham and Madison Padgett are gearing up for the challenge of the upcoming season, but after that, their real challenge begins.
“Sometimes you know you’re supposed to do something, but you don’t know why,” said Abraham. “I knew I wanted to be in the Navy, I just didn’t know why.”
Both Indians and friends since third grade, Abraham and Padgett signed up separately for the United States Navy late last year. Both will be part of aviation, Abraham as an aircraft handler, and Padgett as an aviation fueller at the end of the summer.
“My dad was in the Navy,” said Abraham of her father, Tom. “Whether people admit to it or not, you’re always influenced by your parents. Because my dad was in the Navy, I’ve always favored it. But he really wasn’t all too excited about my decision. He thought college would be my best option.”
But Abraham still felt a calling to serve.
“I just want to be able to help people. That’s just my biggest thing in life,” said Abraham. “I thought about being a firefighter, and they say in the Navy, everybody is a firefighter. But as long as I’m helping people, I think I’ll be fine.”
Abraham says her twin sister, Sarah, has applied for ROTC in the Army and her dad has come around, even timing her showers for when she hits the aircraft carrier. But at least she won’t have to be gearing up for the Navy life alone.
“We’ve been friends for a really long time,” said Padgett. “Ever since I can remember, like in middle school, we always talked about us both wanting to go into the military. But we really didn’t know what branch until recently.”
Padgett also comes from a military family with her father an Air Force vet, while her grandfather was in the Army. She chose active duty in the Navy so she could travel and see the world, but also plans to take college classes while she is enlisted. Both Indians also hope to go into nursing one day, and both will be reporting together to Chicago on August 19.
“Our recruiters knew that we were really good friends,” said Padgett. “Stephanie actually signed on before me and we had two different dates. But they changed it so we could go in together.”
On the court, Abraham has been playing first singles for Amesbury since she was a sophomore, while Padgett played second singles last year. Both are the only current players who were on the squad when coach Brett Manoloff took over the rebuilding program four years ago.
“Madison and Stephanie exemplify the fun, hard-working ethics of Amesbury girls tennis,” Manoloff said. “They have been an integral part of the rebuilding of the program and I am honored to be their coach. I am proud of their individual and team accomplishments and am indebted to them for their upcoming service to our country. I will miss them both and hope that my four nieces will grow up to be as honorable and humorous as they.”
But before they leave, these future sailors say they will be bringing their all to the their final season, but perhaps with a more militant style.
“Stephanie and I are going to definitely make up some intense warm-ups for the girls,” said Padgett. “We’re going to get creative.”
“This year we’re hoping to be the best that we can be,” said Abraham. “But we are also trying to set up a foundation for next year. We want to leave knowing that we set them up to succeed. We didn’t just do things in the moment.”