Rob Giulian stepped onto a tennis court for the first time as a Middle Township High School freshman.
Middle coach Matt Gilbert convinced Giulian to try out for the team.
Giulian set a school record that day.
“I hit 22 balls that practice over the fence we have at the courts,” he said with a laugh.
Giulian has progressed since then. He is one of the leaders of a Panthers team that won its fourth straight Cape-Atlantic League National Conference title this spring. Middle (21-0) will host Haddon Township in a South Jersey Group I semifinal when the weather allows.
“I fell in love with the sport,” Giulian said. “I (still) hit a couple over the fence now and then but for the most part they’re staying on the court.”
Giulian played doubles as a freshman and sophomore. He played No. 1 singles as a junior, finishing with a 21-3 record. Talented freshman Max Gilbert, the coach’s son, took over the No. 1 spot this spring for Middle, so Giulian shifted to second singles, where he began Thursday with a 21-2 record.
“He can rip the ball like no one else,” Giulian said of Max. “He’s playing so well at first singles as a freshman it’s unbelievable.”
Giulian lives in Stone Harbor and is the oldest of Karl and Amy Giulian’s four children. His younger siblings — Kate, 17, Karl, 15, and David, 14 — all play sports.
Giulian’s organized athletic career will come to an end when he graduates Middle. He plans to attend Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania and study education.
In a telephone interview Tuesday night, he discussed several topics, including why his mother often doesn’t like the family dinner conversation.
On what has made Middle tennis so successful
A lot of our success comes from our mindset and our mentality every day. Tennis at Middle Township, when we’re in season, we’re going seven days a week. We’re going hard every single day. We have this mentality of it’s us vs. the world. It’s one of the greatest teams I’ve ever been on.
On how he started playing tennis
I played soccer for Coach Gilbert freshman year. I didn’t have a spring sport. I was going to play year-round AAU basketball, but Coach was like ‘Don’t do that. Come out for the tennis team.’ I tried out, and tennis is my favorite sport. It’s my love. It’s my passion. That’s the beauty of Middle Township tennis. We’re not tennis players. We’re athletes.
On his relationship with Max Gilbert
First singles and second singles play right next to each other on the court (during) matches. During breaks, we’re always high-fiving and fist-bumping one another. There’s a special bond between the two of us.
On his career plans
My goal is to teach and coach when I get older. I love helping people. I think teaching is such a great way of giving back and impacting lives on a daily basis. I love history. I love American history. That’s my passion, so I would focus on that.
On his competitive sports career coming to an end
It shows you not to take things for granted. As a freshman, sophomore and junior, you’re out there every day, and you’re not looking at the big picture. The other day was senior day, and it could have been the last time I ever stepped out on the court. It really puts things in perspective. It’s a little upsetting. I find it’s a good time to reflect.
On the importance of sports in his family
My mom hates our dinner conversations a lot, because all we talk about is how the match went or what the upcoming schedule is like. Sports are basically the center of our conversations. It’s school and sports — that’s all we talk about. We were just outside in our backyard playing basketball. There’s definitely a sports bond between us. My dad has not missed one single tennis match this year. That’s remarkable. My mom is a high school teacher at Middle. I see her every day. Sports are a love and a passion in our household.
On being the oldest in the family
It’s kind of cool to set the tone in the family. Karl and David are kind of following in my footsteps in terms of work ethic, responsibility and being a good teammate.
On living in Stone Harbor
I love it except when it floods. In the summertime, we’re three blocks away from the beach. I can bike anywhere. In the winter, it’s so cool because no one is here. You get the best of both worlds.
Contact: 609-272-7209 MMcGarry@pressofac.com| Twitter @ACPressMcGarry
Who is your best athlete and why?
Roger Federer — it’s the way he presents himself not only as an athlete but as a person.
What was the last television show you binge watched?
“Narcos” on Netflix
Favorite food to order when out for dinner
What was the last movie you saw in the theater?
“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”
What song gets you pumped for a match?
“Hall of Fame” by Script