Aimee Manfredo of Shoreham-Wading River makes a return shot in...

Aimee Manfredo of Shoreham-Wading River makes a return shot in her match against Zenat Rashidzada of Half Hollow Hills West. (Oct. 22, 2013) Credit: David Pokress

Aimee Manfredo has plenty of goals this fall, but her main priorities are even more involved than what she does on the court for her tennis team at Shoreham-Wading River this season.

A senior, Manfredo has been on the varsity squad since the seventh grade, has won the last two Division IV singles titles, and made a run to the Suffolk singles final last season to earn her first bid to the state championships.

So naturally, one would think she'd want to finish her senior year by winning the county singles championship and advancing deep into the state tournament. And she does, but Manfredo also is concerned about choosing a college to attend and play for -- and making sure she leaves the tennis team in good hands, with the Wildcats posting a younger lineup this season.

"Finding the right college is more of a top priority for me, but I'm still hoping to win counties this time, instead of coming in second, and then I'm hoping to make it further in states," Manfredo said. "High school tennis is a nice team thing you can do while still being an individual. It also prepares you for college, working as a team, and that's important to me."

First-year varsity players Joelle Benigno, a freshman, and her sister, Daniella Benigno, an eighth-grader, occupy SWR's second- and third-singles slots, respectively. Manfredo believes that despite their youth, the Wildcats have a chance to win a league title, especially because the team was demoted to the less competitive League VIII after a three-win season last year.

But Manfredo knows she can't just go out and dominate in first singles as she has in the past. She has to take the Benigno sisters under her wing if SWR is to have any team success.

"They're fun to hit with and I really just focus on drilling them," Manfredo said. "When I practice with them, it's about them, not me. I want to leave them with a good positive role model, because they'll be our No. 1 and No. 2 next year. I want to leave the team to them, and I know if I train them throughout the season, then I can leave the team in good hands."

But Manfredo could be leaving her SWR teammates with more than just a role model to look up to on the court once she graduates. One of the five college tennis programs that have expressed interest in Manfredo is the Air Force Academy. Manfredo said she never would have considered attending a military academy in the past but added that she is drawn to the benefits, education and sense of service that the Air Force could provide.

She said that attending the Air Force Academy would mean she'd have to enlist and serve in the military, but added that the chances of eventually being put in harm's way would be slim.

"They came to me, and at first I thought, 'I don't really want to go into the military.' But the more I looked at their program, the more I thought I might want to consider it," Manfredo said. "And now I'm seriously considering it and I have an official visit in October. I always thought it was very black and white, like you had to go out there and you'd get deployed. But as you look more into it, you can give your service in a lot of ways."

Talk about having your priorities in order.

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