Favorite athlete: Kim Clijsters
Favorite team: The Phillies
Favorite memory competing in sports: Two years ago, my teammates and I won the girls’ advanced league for AAYTE, and my match was the deciding match!
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: Last year, during a practice, I was running for a ball, and I tripped over my own foot, cut my knee and I was bleeding all over the court.
Music on iPod: The Foo Fighters
Future plans: I want to go to art school and become a high school ceramics teacher.
Words to live by: ‘Conceive-Believe-Achieve’
One goal before turning 30: Travel to Europe
One thing people don’t know about me: I love Asian cultures.
By Mary Jane Souder
Nicole Bonacci, by all appearances, is your typical student-athlete
The Abington senior has moved through the ranks on her tennis team and this year has excelled at second singles. A team captain, Bonacci leads by example on and off the court.
“Nicole is a very hard worker,” coach Kristy Heyser said. “She never moans and groans about anything and sets the tone for practice.
“She’s respected by her teammates, she’s easy to get along with, and she’s competitive on the court. She’s a joy to coach.”
What most people don’t know and wouldn’t suspect is that Bonacci has been battling diabetes since she was in fifth grade.
“If I didn’t know that from her PIAA form, I would never know that she has diabetes because she’s not the kind of kid that ever talks about it,” Heyser said. “She never mentions it, she never complains.
“She takes really good care of herself, but it must affect her. It makes things more of a challenge.”
It’s a challenge that doesn’t faze the personable Bonacci, who gives herself a shot of insulin four times a day. She also checks her blood sugar religiously – first thing in the morning, last thing at night and before every meal.
“If it’s high or low will affect how much insulin I give myself,” she said. “I used to have an old insulin regiment where I wouldn’t be able to eat sugar or had to eat a certain amount of carbs, but with my newer insulin, I can eat basically whatever I want. I just have to adjust how much insulin I give myself, and that’s much better.”
Dealing with the disease was not as daunting to Bonacci as it might have been to some.
“It seemed normal,” she said. “My brother has had it his whole life, and my dad got it when he was young. It was all around me, so I was used to it, but, of course, it was a shock.
Bonacci has not left the disease affect her performances on the court.
“Before I play, I have to check my blood sugar, and if it’s lower, I have to make sure I eat something and not cover that with insulin because if I’m running around playing tennis, that will make my blood sugar drop,” she said. “If it drops too low, I could potentially pass out.”
During a tournament this summer, Bonacci, who was losing a match, discovered her blood sugar was low.
“Once I corrected it, I started winning and I won the match,” she said. “I bring my bag on the court with me, so I would have glucose and pure sugar. I would eat a couple of those, and pretty much instantly, it brings my sugar up. It’s basically nothing new.”
Bonacci inherited her loved of tennis from her father, Michael Bonacci.
“He had played tennis when he was younger, so he figured why not teach his kids,” she said. “My brother and I started out playing together. I picked it up more so than my brother – I got the athletic gene, I guess.”
When she was eight years old, Bonacci became involved in a summer league with the Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education program.
“I just worked my way up in that league and finally reached the advanced,” she said. “I made good relationships with all the girls, and I did that every summer.
“For me, it was more fun with friends because it was a camp with a bunch of friends, but then I started getting serious about it when I realized I had a little bit of talent.”
Bonacci began competing in leagues at Fossler’s Tennis Center and earned several trophies.
Over the years, Bonacci’s father served as both her coach and teacher.
“I would get frustrated with my dad, but that’s typical,” she said. “He would try and teach me things, and I would be like, ‘No, why would I do that?’”
In truth, Bonacci is an eager student of the game.
“She’s very coachable and willing to learn,” Heyser said. “We’ve asked her to make several adjustments over the year in her serve and volley, and she continues to do that to the best of her ability.”
As a sophomore, Bonacci played second doubles for a varsity squad that captured the National Conference title.
Last year, she played third singles and this year earned the second singles spot.
“She’s really grown emotionally on the court, so she knows how to handle her frustrations in a much more positive way than she did in her sophomore and junior years,” Heyser said. “She handles pressure well – she does not choke under pressure. She’ll step to the plate if need be.”
An example of Bonacci’s willingness to step to the plate was her hard-fought 6-4, 6-4 win over Council Rock North’s Megan Sutton this season.
“Nicole had lost to her last year, and even though we lost 3-4 as a team, that was a huge match, a huge win for us,” Heyser said. “Nicole never got ahead of herself. She was just in the moment, and she was playing what we call point by point. She was focusing on each point as it was, and she really came through for the team.
“She had a tough opponent, and she stepped to the plate.”
Bonacci’s talents don’t begin and end on the tennis court. The Abington senior is a gifted artist, a love she came by in ninth grade.
“I used to play the cello,” she said. “At the end of eighth grade, I was like, ‘I can’t do this anymore. It’s so annoying. Next year I’m going to take art.’ I loved it.”
While she inherited her love of tennis from her father, Bonacci’s passion for art could be attributed to her mother, Eleanor Bonacci.
“My mom loved art when she was younger, but she didn’t take it as seriously as I did,” Bonacci said. “She went to La Salle and majored in art history, but she never made a career out of it.”
Also providing inspiration for Bonacci was her art teacher, Nicole Caracciolo
“She was the perfect art teacher,” Bonacci said. “She was my role model. I want to be a teacher just like her. She’s the one that made me want to be an art teacher.”
Bonacci, a member of the National Art Honors Society, is taking AP art this year with a concentration in phobias. Her first piece represented the fear of heights.
“People think, ‘Oh art, you’re doing nothing. You have no homework,’” but you have so much homework because you spend so much time on these pieces,” she said.
Ceramics is Bonacci’s first love, and she aspires to one day teach ceramics.
“I really was into the ceramics, making bowls and cups and being able to physically hold and use what I made,” she said. “It was really awesome.”
Bonacci, who also is involved in Abington’s Key Club, aspires to attend the Tyler School of Art but also is impressed with Kutztown University’s art curriculum.
As for tennis, Bonacci plans to keep it as part of her future.
“I definitely want to play club tennis in college,” she said. “I know I’ll definitely play the rest of my life because it’s a sport you can play no matter how old you are.”