By Jenelyn Russo
Photo Credit: Bill Alkofer
With both parents having played tennis in high school, Justin Espiritu knew he would eventually find his way to the court.
“I was about in sixth grade when I started playing,” says Espiritu. “My parents led me to pick up the racquet, and I’ve loved it from there.”
As a singles player for Servite High School, the rising senior values all aspects of the game.
“I like both the mental and physical aspects of it,” says the 17-year-old. “On the mental side, you have to think about every point in advance and know where you’re going all the time. On the physical side, tennis kind of evens out the playing field.”
His appreciation for the mental side of the game also became Espiritu’s biggest challenge.
“Earlier in my high school tennis career, I was struggling mentally,” says Espiritu. “It was hard to get over points and move on. I was stuck on always losing. Once I was able to get over that hump and be able to push myself to the next point, it made me grow as an athlete.”
A three-year varsity player, Espiritu worked diligently in the offseason to take significant steps in his growth. His efforts earned him 2019 2nd Team All-Trinity League honors.
“Justin is a strong leader both on and off the court,” says Servite head tennis coach, J.P. Jugo. “His energy and willingness to speak up for his teammates is a testament to how much he cares about our program and school. I am very excited to work with him next season.”
For Espiritu, the brotherhood at Servite is more than just a word. It is a unique connection he shares with his teammates, who are also his classmates and friends.
“I’m always with these guys, the people on my team,” says Espiritu. “You create this brotherhood, and it’s real when you’re a part of it. When you wear the crest on your jersey, it means so much more when you’re competing.”
Espiritu is a member of the school’s Sanberg International Leadership Program, which took him to China last summer to study Mandarin. After serving as an Assistant Prior this past year in Servite’s student government, he will spend his senior year as a Prior. The Tustin resident plans to pursue a science field in college and is grateful to his parents for the example they have set.
“My parents [are role models] because of the sacrifice they make for me to go to Catholic school and give me this foundation for
the rest of my life,” says Espiritu. “That sacrifice inspires me to keep working hard.”
Whether on the tennis court or in life, prayer remains a cornerstone for Espiritu.
“Prayer gives you that calming effect,” says Espiritu, “and a reminder that God is always by your side.”