Laura Gulbe is a junior on the Pepperdine women's tennis team. She has had a great spring season, earning All-WCC second team honors, clinching a big win against Stanford and helping the Waves to another WCC title. She shares about her experiences growing up, as well as her time at Pepperdine:
Q: What was it like growing up in Latvia?
A: I lived there until I was about 14 and then I went to school to practice tennis in Spain for three years, so I have an international background. I lived in Austria and trained there too for two years. Growing up in Latvia was unbelievable. It was a lot of fun and it was awesome being around my family. It is such a nice place to grow up in because of all the nature.
Q: When did you start playing tennis?
A: I was almost nine, so that was somewhat of a late start. I really liked it immediately. I wanted to play because my brothers played and I really wanted to beat them.
Q: You have a family of athletes? How has that affected your athletic career?
A: My family on my dad's side is very athletic, but my mom's side isn't at all. The biggest thing is that it is competitive and there are so many things that translate from athletics into real life. It taught me some very valuable lessons at a young age like overcoming adversity.
Q: How did you get in contact with Pepperdine?
A: One of my brother's friends played for the head coach at Pepperdine, and he told me that Per was looking for players. I messaged Per and I really liked him from the first time we talked. After that, I wanted to go to Pepperdine so badly.
Q: Why did you choose Pepperdine?
A: There are so many reasons to choose Pepperdine! Obviously academics was a big reason and I really like how small it is. I came for an official visit, and after I made the decision to go to college, Pepperdine was the only choice.
Q: Have you enjoyed living in Malibu?
A: Oh, it has been amazing and so much fun. The girls from my team are awesome. We are all so different, but we are chasing the same goals. Sometimes we get after each other, but it's for good reasons.
Q: What is your favorite memory of your last three years with the Waves, on or off the court?
A: The last two weeks (before the WCC Championships) have been crazy. We beat Stanford and I got the chance to clinch there. We played BYU and San Diego, and then we played USC and I got to clinch again. I got chills all over my body. It is so special to play for something bigger than yourself. Having the team just creates so much energy. People always ask me how I do sports and school and not get tired, and although it is tiring, you get so much energy from your sport that it transfers over to your schoolwork and it also works the other way around.
Q: You clinched the Waves' second-ever win over Stanford to beat the Cardinal, how did that moment feel?
A: It felt like relief. Ashley was on the court next to me, and all the girls were there, so we were really in it together. I did not feel that much pressure because I thought that if I didn't have it, then Ashley is going to take it. Obviously, I wanted to get the point first because you never know what can happen. The ball is round, and it can bounce either way, and sometimes you can get a little lucky. It felt so amazing and I was so excited.
Q: How has this year's season been for you?
A: The beginning of the spring season was a little bit hard because during the fall I had some injuries and it wasn't the best personally. I just started looking at it from the perspective of taking every moment and making the best of it. It doesn't matter if you feel bad or something isn't going right, you just take every chance you have. Sometimes you can only give 70%, but at that time it is your 100%. Give it your best and it normally works out. This season the girls have been getting along better and better each week, and our coach has helped us with the small things, which eventually become the big things. We are very fortunate to be here and have such great people around. For example, our academic advisor came to our match yesterday and our athletic director comes to all our matches. That's part of why Pepperdine was the choice.
Q: What are your summer plans?
A: That's a good question. I am staying here for May for the NCAAs and hopefully we are going to win that. I am taking a class in June and the goal is to learn something new.