Aug. 6, 2010
By Seema Choksy, uclabruins.com contributor
Last year was your first season at UCLA after transferring from Georgia Tech. How was that transition, and what were some of the adjustments you had to make both on and off the court?
"Well first off, academically, UCLA is much different than Georgia Tech, especially because I was able to find a major (history) here that I'm much more comfortable with. For that reason alone, I was able to find much more academic success. I really enjoy the classes that I'm taking now. As far as athletically, I love playing for UCLA. I have nothing bad to say about the Georgia Tech program because it had a lot to do in shaping me into the player that I am today. I'm just happy that I was able to give as much as I could to my teammates this past year, and the move has been nothing but the best so far."
What did you learn most from last year that will help you this upcoming season?
"One of the things I've been working on a lot this summer is my attitude. I want to do a better job of handling losses and facing adversity during matches. Now that I'm a leader and a senior on this team, I need to show confidence and be a positive role model to other players."
You played mostly at No. 2 singles and doubles last year, earning All-America honors in singles. How would you rate your first season at UCLA?
"I think we were disappointed with the loss (to Duke) that we suffered at NCAA's. However, I think personally I had a pretty good year. I had some good wins and took some tough losses, but I learned a lot more than anything. I enjoyed playing with Nina Pantic in doubles. We developed a great friendship and learned a lot about each other's games."
What were some of your best experiences from last year?
"There are definitely some team dinners that go to the top of my list. I think definitely the weekend that stands out the most is beating Cal and Stanford at home. I heard some stories about how those two teams came in and beat us at home the year before, so that invoked a little fire in us to take them down this year. That weekend definitely stands out above a lot of the other matches that we played."
Last year's team had a legitimate shot at winning the NCAA title. How hard was it seeing Stanford, a team UCLA beat during the regular season, coming away with the championship in the end?
"It was absolutely brutal. We don't like losing at all, and to see a team that we beat during the year win the championship was tough. But I give a ton of credit to Stanford. They played incredible in Athens and had a great year so they absolutely earned it. But it felt good to know that we handed them their only loss of the year. I wish we could've done better at the NCAAs and maybe played them again."
You struggled with a wrist injury for much of last year. How has the wrist been holding up this summer?
"It's good. I've been playing all summer and working really hard in the weight room. As far as the wrist goes, I have decided to wait a little while before I take any serious action on it. I want to have the best senior year I can, and I don't want to sit out and recover from a surgery or anything. So right now I'm just going to take care of it as best as I can. We have the best trainers here and my coaches are totally on my side when it comes to whichever path I choose to take. Right now we're in the clear."
The team lost Yasmin Schnack, however nearly everyone else is returning for this season. What are some of your goals, both personally and team wise for the upcoming year?
"Well, Yasmin is irreplaceable. She has achieved some things that most college players can only dream of. Above being an incredible tennis player and teammate, she's an awesome friend. But we do have another great team coming back. We've returned everyone except for Yasmin and we're gaining two players- freshman Courtney Dolehide and McCall Jones, who is a transfer from BYU. Both of those players are extremely talented so we should be in the running again this year. I always put the team first before any individual goals so obviously I want us to win a national championship. I haven't won one since I've been in college and it's my senior year, so there's nothing I would like more than to walk away with an NCAA team title. I would also like to be an All-American in both singles and doubles. I'm trying not to focus too much this year on the results. I'm just planning on doing the work and whatever I earn will be what I deserve.
You grew up in the New Jersey-New York area. What are some of the differences between living back east and in Los Angeles?
"Well, I lived in a big city back home and Los Angeles is obviously a huge city. So it's not too different in that respect. New Jersey is extremely fast paced and we all know the Jersey Shore and all the other television shows on TV right now that are giving us a bad rap. But we really don't deserve it (laughing). I think you definitely see a few more smiles on people's faces out here than you do maybe in the New York area, but overall they're actually quite similar."
Do you plan to give the pro tour a try after college?
"I think so. At the moment I definitely don't want to throw away everything I've done. I've worked so hard before college and during college to not at least give the pro tour a try. I think I owe it to myself. Why not right?"
What would you like to do for a career when your playing days are over?
I'm actually interning right now with a PR firm. I would like to go into some form of public relations. I figure that I'll try to use my New Jersey personality to get me in the door somewhere (laughing)."
Your bio says that you enjoy reading. Do you have any favorite books? What are you reading right now?
"Right now I'm taking two history classes so it's been all about the British Empire lately. I loved the Catcher in the Rye- that's always an instant classic. And you know, I might take a little flack for this but I loved the Twilight series (laughing). I'm proud to say it! I also may have watched the movies more than once and memorized a few lines here and there. But that's fine (laughing)."
What are some of your other interests outside of tennis?
"I like hanging out with friends and being with my family. I enjoy shopping, traveling, going to museums. Just exploring new places and areas I've never been. I've been to Spain, which was beautiful. Growing up my favorite place to go to was California and I always thought that California is the place I wanted to live - it just so happened that UCLA worked out. It's awesome that I always wanted to be here and now I finally am."
The season is just around the corner. Are you ready to begin your senior year?
"I'm just really excited. Actually, I'm anxious and excited at the same time. I'm anxious because it's my last one and I don't know what to expect when it's over, but I'm excited because I couldn't have asked for a better group of girls to play this season with. I think we're all going to get along very well and I think we're going to have some great results. I know that everyone on the team right now loves working hard and we are all going to put in the work to get the results. I think Stella (Sampras Webster), Rance (Brown) and Bill (Zaima) are some of the best supporters and coaches you can ask for. A big thing with this past year is they enjoyed coaching us because we all came out to work every day and I expect it to be no different this year."