Sept. 27, 2010
UCLA women's tennis is back and ready to start a brand new year with lightning speed. We've got a new team with six returners and five fresh faces. Courtney Dolehide is a blue chip freshman coming all the way from Chicago, Illinois. She rounds out an incoming freshman class that includes Southern Californians Megan Lester and Morgan Thomas. We're also lucky enough to have collected two transfers this season. Orange County resident McCall Jones is a junior transfer from BYU and is ranked 26th in the nation to start the year. Joining her is Holly Fleming, a sophomore transfer from Rollins College, who is a true London native and owns an amazing British accent that we're all envious of.
With all these new people, and the fall tournament season just around the corner, we recently traveled to Lake Arrowhead in the San Bernardino valley for a team bonding retreat. At first it didn't seem like the best way for getting to know our new team members seeing how we were all camped out in a beautiful lakeside house with 12 women and just three bathrooms. However, as Bruins and true champions, made it work out spectacularly. The goal was to build team unity and promote trust and communication between all the girls, both old and new. It was quite an experience, as our team has so many different personalities (strong, explosive, quiet, shy, etc.). Jeff Troesch, our mental training coach, introduced us to a number of team building activities, and held open-ended evening pow-wows as well.
By team building activities I mean the sort of games you grow familiar with in elementary school. With the right attitude, and a subtle twist on rules and goals, the activities turned very tennis and team related. One activity had us split up into pairs and blindfold a partner to lead them on a short walk around a "treacherous" path of small boulders (technically stones) all while facing slapping tree branches. The idea was to put our lives entirely in a teammate's hands, or at least trust them enough to let them lead us outside of our comfort zone.
Besides the games and activities, we also hiked down to an incredible creek. It was a picturesque hidden oasis complete with rocky cliffs, a decent-sized waterfall, and a clear pond of beautiful, yet absolutely freezing, water. Junior Carling Seguso was the first to launch off the rocks and into the cold water and I followed quickly thereafter. Courtney threw common sense aside and joined us, as did Holly, who apparently had no issue swimming in the freezing water. The rest of the team, and all of the coaches, watched on, later regretting not finding the courage to dive in.
This adventure was easily the highlight of the trip for me, even though the hike back left us more out of breath than some of our regular workouts. We rounded out our day with a trip on a cozy, speedy, little boat trip around the lake. All three of our seniors, Andrea Remynse, Noelle Hickey, and Maya Johansson, took a brisk swim in the middle of the lake. Noelle was in jeans and deserves some props for putting herself through that for the sake of commemorating her senior year.
The retreat was unforgettable and definitely succeeded in connecting each and every one of us. We all even cooked dinner for each other, creating such delicacies as grilled burgers, shrimp kabobs, and giant pieces of chicken. This was all quickly followed by S'mores. Not only did we all share three bathrooms, but six girls were packed into a small room stacked high with bunk beds (think summer camp or the main room in "The Bachelor Pad"). I'm grateful we got the chance to get to know each other better, and I'm glad that even the coaches were included in the process. I think that since the environment really promoted openness, everyone ended up being just as comfortable talking about tennis and team bonding topics as they were talking about personal and more awkward issues and concerns.
In other news, recent graduate Yasmin Schnack has started her professional career with some amazing results. She reached the quarterfinals in singles and won the doubles event of a $25,000 event in Redding, Calif. And just this past weekend reached the finals of singles and won the doubles of a $10,000 event in Mazatlan, Mexico. We're all so proud of her and obviously hoping she can continue to represent the Bruins in such great form.
The fall season starts this weekend with the ITA/Riviera All-American Championships pre-qualifying event taking place on our home courts at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. The tournament then moves over to the prestigious Riviera Country Club next week for the qualifying and main draw rounds. The event is open to the public so feel free to swing by and catch some top college players from all across the country. It is also a chance to get your first glimpse of the 2011 Bruins.