Women’s tennis started its season last weekend with a roster of seven international players – the most of any squad in the program’s history.
With only one player from the U.S., the team represents seven countries and four continents. This global connection has brought them together as a team, both on and off the court, giving them the confidence they need to win this spring, third-year head coach Torrie Browning said.
“Team chemistry is amazing,” Browning said. “If you’re getting along off the court and you genuinely have good friendships, it makes you really want to win for each other.”
GW’s spring slate of matches began last Saturday with a 4-3 win over Harvard at home that came down to the wire.
A strong start in doubles gave the Colonials a 2–1 match advantage. The team headed into singles action with the victory within reach, but Harvard responded with the advantage in singles and tied the contest at three entering the final match.
Junior Sara Grubac – a Belgrade, Serbia native – closed out the match by notching a singles win 7-6 (4), 6-4 over Crimson sophomore Neha Gupta. Gupta, who is ranked No. 113 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, was coming off a fall season in which she posted an 11-0 singles record.
The Colonials win over Harvard comes after the Crimson’s dominant 2017 season in which they ended the year as Ivy League champions and a top-50 team in the country.
“This was a huge confidence builder for us to beat a team like that, they were Ivy League champs and a top 50 team in the country,” Browning said. “To beat a team like that in the first match of the season is quite impressive.”
Sophomore Melis Bayraktarolgu said the team’s diversity has improved their communication – a key factor in their success.
“We understand each other well, like the communication,” Bayraktarolgu, who is from Istanbul, Turkey, said. “You can really see the cultural differences in how we think and how we speak.”
Tennis doesn’t crack the top-10 most popular sports in the country, according to an annual survey conducted by The Harris Poll. But senior and Sao Paolo, Brazil native Marie-Louise Decamps said the U.S. offers opportunities that Europe lacks.
“There is only college tennis in the U.S.,” Decamps said. “There is not a place in Europe you can go to play tennis at a high level and also study at a really good university.”
The high concentration of international students on the team this year was not an intentional move by Browning. It was a combination of the players own initiative and chance, she said.
“One of the main things with all of the international students we have is that they’ve all reached out to us, I haven’t really reached out to anybody,” Browning said. “It was kind of a snowball effect cause once you get one player, you start getting a lot of emails.”
With players dotting the global map, Browning said the fear of a language barrier was an original concern, but hasn’t been a problem so far this year.
“The English proficiency test is so high, so they already have a good base of English,” Browning said.
But there were a few times during the offseason where the players had to learn to understand their teammates who learned to speak thousands of miles away, she added.
“Some things are just funny when we’re explaining things to them,” Browning said. “We were saying we’re going to work on poaching, and one girl said ‘yeah we need to work on jumping, I’m not jumping enough’ and we were like ‘what are you talking about, oh you mean poaching.’”
With the next match just days away, Browning and her players said they are viewing the season as a series of small moments that will culminate in success at the end of the year.
“My expectations are for us to continue to try to push ourselves, to continue to get better everyday,” Browning said. “If you’re constantly focusing on win, win, win then you could end up winning, but it’d be the wrong way. I’d rather lose the right way, than win the wrong way.”
The Colonials continue their season Saturday at 2 p.m. against Delaware at the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center.