Recently in Women's Tennis Category

Women's Tennis Q&A: Evgeniya Levashova

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Evgeniya Levashova, a freshman on the Pepperdine's women's tennis team, compares her previous experience on the junior circuit to playing at Pepperdine. She also compares life back in Russia to her life now:

Evgeniya  Levashova

Q: You played very well on the junior circuit. How was that experience for you playing against such good competitors?

A: It was really tough from the beginning. Playing in a lot of good tournaments meant playing a lot of girls who were just as skilled as I was. I had to work very hard and be ready to play in whatever conditions.

Q: How do you compare the girls you played against in the junior circuit to the ones now?

A: It's kind of a different level. When we play top teams it is similar to playing the top girls in the circuit.

Q: Do you prefer singles or doubles?

A: I do both but I prefer singles.

Q: What was your favorite experience in the junior circuit?

A: Just playing matches and of course winning. The Junior European Championship and Masters were great experiences and lots of fun.

Q: What made you choose playing collegiate tennis instead of professional? And what made you choose Pepperdine?

A: Basically, I realized that it is important to have a good education. By going to college I will be better off for life after tennis. As for Pepperdine, when I was young I really liked Los Angeles, it was always my dream to come here. So I really like the location and the coaches played a big part and what they have been able to do with this program.

Q: Have you ever had any big injuries and what did they teach you?

A: Yeah, I have. I had an ACL injury. I feel like it was good for me overall since I realized you have to be prepared for everything. Also before my injury I didn't want to go to college at all, I didn't think about the future, I just wanted to play and go pro. But my injury showed me that I need something to protect myself and that having an education will do that.

Q: How is it playing for Per and Lauren and how did you get in contact with them?

A: I really like them. I knew Lauren was great. As for Per a lot of my friends and coaches said he was a really great coach and person. I had originally got into contact with Mario who was an assistant coach then I met with him. But then I started really talking to Per and now Lauren came and I think they are awesome.

Q: How do they help you with your game?

A: Per is a really good coach. He not only focuses on the movements but the mental aspects. He makes sure we pay attention to the little things, which I think is very helpful. He's taught me what to do between points and after points and how to recover. I also see them helping me outside of tennis with life in general.

Q: How do you like the team overall?

A: I knew Luisa and Ashley before. I knew Luisa since we use played a lot of tournaments together so we knew each other. I heard about Ashley and how she was awesome. When I got here I was nervous meeting everyone but once I did it turned out they liked me and I liked them and we have become a big family. They are all always there for me whether it's about tennis or life. It's really awesome to have a team like this.

Q: How do you compare your life now to back in Russia?

 A: The weather for starters is definitely different. Russia gets cold in the winter where here it just stays the same temperature. The culture and people are also different. But it's not a big difference otherwise. In Russia we play a lot more indoor since it gets cold, but in America they practice here whenever they want.

Q: How are you feeling as we get closer to the postseason?

A: I am really excited. I think we are all good players and we can win these tournaments as long as we all come together and fight to the end. It may not be easy but I think we can do it.

Women's Tennis Q&A: Dzina Milovanovic

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Dzina Milovanovic, a junior women's tennis player from Serbia, talks to us about the exciting season they have ahead and Serbian traditions she enjoyed when she went home for the break:

Dzina  Milovanovic

Q: Being from Serbia, how did you hear about Pepperdine and why did you choose to come here?

A: I played international junior tennis tournaments and there were two tournaments in Florida where college coaches usually come out. These two tournaments were how I first got in touch with schools and eventually Pepperdine.

Q: How were your first two tennis seasons at Pepperdine?

A: I think that every season is special in its own way. My first season at Pepperdine was a completely new experience of playing not just for yourself but for your team and fellow teammates who always have your back. Competing with this new approach is always exciting. During the second season, I experienced some ups and downs due to my knee injury. However, I had a lot of support from the girls and coaches, which made it easier to recover and get back to playing. Overall, the last two years were amazing and definitely something I never expected coming into college.

Q: How do you feel being a junior now and entering this championship season?

A: Time flies! It seems like I was a freshman not that long ago. I am very excited for this season and new experiences with the girls. We have a great team this year and I think we can do really well if we keep working hard every day.

Q: With so many new players this year, how has the team dynamic changed?

A: The team is definitely different from previous years, but I think everyone is getting along pretty well so far. Women's tennis at Pepperdine is known as the most "international" sports team at Pepperdine. We are all used to adversity, different backgrounds and opinions. At the end of the day, being so far away from home we are like a big family here and always have each other's back.

Q: Having reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships two years in a row, what are you, as a team, striving for this year?

A: Our ultimate goal is to go all the way and win the NCAAs. However, I think we are aware that along the way, our focus should be on giving our best, training and doing things the right way.

Q: What are your personal goals for the season?

A: My personal goal for this season is to stay consistent and healthy, to improve certain aspects of my game, give my best every day and be there for my teammates.

Q: What do you hope to do after graduating from Pepperdine?

A: That's a good question! There are a lot of options but I am still not really sure. Hopefully, I will figure it out soon.

Q: What was it like going home to Serbia for the holidays?

A: Holidays are just a great excuse to get a break from everything and go home. It's always a great feeling going back to Serbia and seeing my family and friends.

Q: What traditions do you have in Serbia for the holidays?

A: Holidays back home are similar to the ones in the States. Some of the differences are that a majority of the Serbian population celebrates Christmas on January 7th instead of December 25th. We also have a family holiday called a "Patron Saint Day" which is a ritual celebration of a family's own patron saint. During this holiday, families remember their ancestors who celebrated the same saint while also preparing lots of food and different specialties.

Women's Tennis Q&A: Ashley Lahey

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2017 WCC Freshman of the Year and rising sophomore Ashley Lahey won her first USTA Pro Circuit event earlier this summer in Sumter, S.C. She talks to us about her experience and her goals for the future:
Ashley  Lahey

Q: You just won your first USTA Pro Circuit event. Was this your first professional event?

A: I played a few professional events last summer, but I haven't played in very many. The Sumter tennis tournament in the ITF Women's Circuit was the first tournament of the year for me so I didn't really have any expectations going in.

Q: Talk us through your experience and the atmosphere at the professional level compared to college.

A: Like any sport, the beginning level professional circuit is not nearly as glorious as the big leagues. The atmosphere itself was nothing special or exciting as there were not too many fans. I did meet an incredible family with some cute kids who became my fan club for the week and it was super fun having them cheer me on and come running to hug me after my matches. Many of the players in the tournament were college players. Mixed in were some top juniors and rising professionals. The competition was incredible. I couldn't believe how hard I had to fight for every match.

Q: How does your age impact your play? Do you feel like being a young sophomore helps you on the court or can be difficult to overcome at times?

A: For me, the biggest positive of being young is realizing that I have a lot of time to really develop my game. Therefore I can focus on the process of improving and don't have to stress about results as much as older players. Having said that, I still do put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed. One tough part of being young is not having as much experience as some of the older players.

Q: What did you learn from the experience?

A: To me the tournament served as a step in the right direction. It told me that my efforts are paying off and if I continue to improve, I have a shot at making it one day. I also learned how important acting professionally, such as eating the right meals, sleeping the right amount and practicing at the right times, is to succeeding. It's going to be a really tough journey, but one I'm excited to take on.

Q: What were your emotions after winning?

A: I was really excited. As I said, it's a step in the right direction and it's fun to see hard work pay off.

Q: What are your next tournaments for the summer?

A: I actually earned a few wildcards into some 60k tournaments, which are a much higher level. I am excited to be able to compete against some very successful players.

Q: What are you learning in the summer tournaments that you will bring onto the court come the fall and spring?

A: I am learning how to win matches with strategy versus physical strength or fitness. I am becoming more well-rounded and also learning how to hold my nerves and play my best game under a lot of pressure.

Q: When did you start playing and who introduced you to tennis?

A: I started playing with my mom when I was about four years old.

Q: What goals do you want to accomplish in the next three years?

A: In the next three years I definitely hope to crack the ranking of top 100 players, though I know that will be very difficult, especially considering that I will be balancing my college education with my athletics!

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:
Laura  Gulbe

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.

Women's Tennis Update: Christine Maddox

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With the spring semester having just begun and the spring tennis season about to get underway, senior Christine Maddox checks in again with another update on what's been happening with the Waves:

 

Christine  Maddox


I can't believe that I am saying this, but I just finished my last first practice day of my college tennis career. It has been a 3 1/2-year whirlwind, and to think that I am beginning my last season playing as a Wave is a lot to take in.

 

To recap this past fall 2016 semester, we gained two wonderful new additions to our squad, Ashley Lahey and Mayar Sherif Ahmed, who have consistently proven that they can bring it on the tennis court. One of our talented sophomores, Luisa Stefani, and my fellow senior, Jean Runglerdkriangkrai, reached the doubles finals of the prestigious All-American Collegiate tournament at the Riviera Country Club which qualified them, as well as Luisa for singles, into the National Indoor Championships in New York. I, along with my doubles partner Mayar, fell short in the quarterfinal round, but would get another chance in the regional tournament to follow.

 

Many of us competed in the Southwest Regional tournament in San Diego in October, and the end result was a resounding sweep for the Waves. Ashley was able to bring the singles title home for the Waves, and my doubles partner Mayar and I were able to take home the doubles title, which automatically qualified all three of us to go to the National Indoor Championships in Flushing Meadows, New York, to compete even further along with Luisa and Jean. During National Indoors, our other brave sophomore Dzina Milovanovic was competing her heart out all by herself in the Jack Kramer Club Invitational and reached the semifinals!

 

National Indoors was a rough turn of events in which many of us were not happy with the way we played, however, it just taught us that success does not just appear out of nowhere without discipline, hard work and a toughness against adversity. I know that this experience will fuel me to push forward and take what I can away from my final season as a Wave.

 

As for the academic portion, this past fall was my hardest semester yet pertaining to classes and the time that they demanded from me. I took two of my hardest sports medicine major courses along with a couple of history classes, and the amount of stress that I felt did not compare to any of my past semester experiences, which I did not think could happen. However, this past semester taught me that perseverance and discipline does not only assist me on the tennis court but in the classroom as well, which has shown me that no goal is too large or grand for me to accomplish.

 

This then brings me to current times. With new rankings having emerged, Mayar and I are ranked #3 in doubles, which excites me even more with the prospects of what this final season could bring. Jean and Luisa are ranked #8 in doubles, which puts two of our doubles teams in the top 10! Luisa, Ashley and Mayar are all ranked in the top 25 in singles (8, 21, and 22) which also makes us a force to be reckoned with, especially with our team ranking clocking in at a solid #3!

 

This coming Thursday, five of us will be competing in the Freeman Memorial tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada, including myself, in which I hope to kick off the spring season right in order to prepare for the approaching dual matches. Our first dual match is against UNLV in the ITA Kickoff Weekend that we will be hosting on the 28th of January, which will launch us into our spring season.

 

I will continue to work hard for my teammates and give Pepperdine all I have for my last season as a Wave, and because no goal is too grand, as I have learned in this past fall semester, I believe that our team can pull off the final win in May if we can keep on working hard with the passion, talent and heart that I know we all have.

Women's Tennis Update: Christine Maddox

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Christine Maddox is a senior on the women's tennis team who has twice earned All-WCC first team honors in doubles and played in the NCAA Doubles Tournament. She will check in occasionally this year with "Journey of a Wave" postings detailing her four years in Malibu:

Christine  Maddox

As I journey into my final semester as a Pepperdine Wave, I cannot help but reflect on my beginnings and progression through my college years. As a freshman, I came in as a nervous 17-year-old in the spring 2014 season and was thrown right into the action. I remember the struggle of balancing academics and tennis, and how my ambitions of being a biology major with an accounting minor rapidly changed into focusing on sports medicine. During the whirlwind that was my freshman season, I developed a bulging disc in my lower back and was quickly unable to do any activity but cheer on my team for the majority of the season.

As the year went on, my injury healed, and Pepperdine acquired a new member to the squad, our head coach Per Nilsson, who helped us through the fall 2014 season and into the spring 2015 and conference play. I remember the hard work that we put in and the sweat and tears that went into that season, the wins and losses, and my first NCAA Doubles Championships in Waco, Texas, with my former partner Matea Cutura, who has since graduated. I had finally tasted what college tennis was like, and I couldn't wait to return in the fall.

During the fall, my world turned upside down again with a sprained MCL and bruised femur in a freak accident on the court in the Southwest Regionals, which took me out of the rest of the fall. If you have climbed the campus of Pepperdine, you know the multitude of stairs, and being on crutches for eight weeks took the wind out of my sails.

I was determined to return better than ever in the spring 2016 season. It was a season to remember as we fought for one another in each match and let the good times roll. One of the best moments was when we bested USC at our home courts to launch us into the NCAA Championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the first time since 1994. We fought our hearts out for one another, Pepperdine and ourselves, and it had shown marvelously.

We reached the "Elite 8" of the NCAAs and loved every minute of it. I had so much pride for my team. My doubles partner, Matea Cutura and I, concluded our run in the Round of 16 at the NCAA Doubles Championship as she finished her campaign as a Wave and graduated. I will never forget our 2016 spring season, as it had shown us what dedication, a love for the game and each other, and spirit for our school could do if we truly set it free.

As far as my final season goes, I am here to compete for my team, my school and myself ... to go out with a "bang" in May 2017, and to enjoy every moment with my tennis family. I am looking forward to seeing how the hours of work we put in during this fall will translate to the dual matches in the spring, and beyond into the NCAA Championships in May.

I have always said that being a student-athlete is to have two full-time jobs, in which the days are long and the work is hard, but for this Wave, the payoff in the end will be worth the wait. I plan to graduate in fall 2017 with a bachelor of arts in sport medicine and four years of college tennis experience under my belt, which has given me the tools to #competewithpurpose in life's adventures on and off the court.

Ashley Lahey, a freshman on the women's tennis team, had the experience of a lifetime competing at the U.S. Open Junior Championship this month and reached the Round of 16 during her first time competing in the Open. The experience of competing at the Open is one Lahey describes as "for the books." She shares this experience as well as what her short time has been like at Pepperdine so far, and what she's looking forward to:

Q: It's so awesome that you got to play recently in the U.S. Open Juniors and did so well! What was that like for you?

A: The experience was incredible. I love playing intense, high-quality matches that really make me put everything out there ... heart, soul, body and mind. I love to compete, and playing against that caliber of athletes forces me to rise to the top of my game both mentally and physically. 

Q: What was your favorite part of the tournament?

A: My favorite part of the tournament was in the final round of qualifying. I think the nerves got to me because my arms were really tight, and I was making a lot of errors I don't usually make. Down a set and close to losing my serve in the first game of the second, I turned to the crowd just feeling kind of desperate. I train with the United States Tennis Association, and every USTA coach that had ever worked with me was there for me in that moment, giving me looks of encouragement. My mom and grandma were there too, doing the same thing. Most importantly, the Pepperdine coach, Per Nilsson, was giving off his normal positive, enthusiastic, vibes of energy. We have been close for a long time, because I committed over a year ago. I remember that before looking over I was feeling very defeated, but that incredible support filled me with so much energy!

From there on I dug into every point, just fighting for my life, and I pulled out the match in the third set. Doing a winning fist pump to the crowd after qualifying for my first slam in my home country definitely goes down in the books as one of the best of my life. I was overcome with emotion and couldn't hold back the tears. Afterward, I went over to Per, and the look of excitement on his face was unforgettable. I hugged him and my mom and grandma and the moment was filled with so much love and happiness. It was amazing!

Q: What famous athletes did you see and what was that like? Any favorites?

A: I saw a ton of top pros who I idolize, and they all treat you with so much respect. They act like you are one of them, on the same level, and say hello and good morning like it's no big deal. In every interaction I pretty much just stood there with my mouth hanging open and eyes wide just staring at them. I think my favorite spotting was Rafael Nadal.

Q: Did you get a chance to talk to any of them? What was that like?

A: Well, not really full conversations, but Caroline Wozniacki smiled at me and said, "Good morning! How are you?" I was a little too shocked to respond so I just stared at her. She just laughed really sweetly and said, "Well, I'll see you around." I then ran off giggling.

Q: What kind of thoughts were going through your head as you played throughout the tournament? How did you keep yourself focused and motivated?

A: Before each match I was super panicked and anxious, but when I ran out onto the court, all the nerves faded into pure joy. I love competing, and playing on such a big stage made it 10 times better. The atmosphere and environment were incredible, and I felt like I was a little kid at a candy store in a way. Outside of matches, I was a little worried about keeping up with school and getting all of my assignments in, but once I got on the court all of that faded.

Q: How did it feel to not only have the chance to compete at the tournament but then do really well? 

A: It was awesome. I was just happy to be there and get the chance to play against the top players in the world. Winning matches was just icing on the cake.

Q: Shifting from that, how did you first week with the Waves go?

A: The week before the U.S. Open was NSO week. Being the only freshman, I was the only girl here that week. The boys' team was awesome, though. They let me train with them and sort of adopted me into their group, giving me rides and taking me to lunch and just showing me around Pepperdine. I loved practicing with them and getting tips and advice too. They put a lot of energy and effort into the training, so it was great preparation for the Open. 

Q:  What led you to come join the tennis program here?

A: The coaches are amazing. They are passionate, knowledgeable, enthusiastic, kind and just all-around great. I knew that if I came here I would be giving myself a great opportunity to work with the best college coaches out there and develop my game as much as possible while still getting a great education. Also the girls are very high level and some of the sweetest, most genuine people I have ever met.

Q: What kind of things are you looking forward to for this season?

A: I am looking forward to getting the opportunity to train with great players and coaches every day in an inspiring and motivational environment. It's very different from individual training. With a team, we all push each other to new limits, encouraging one another and getting through tough times together. It's going to be so nice to have that kind of support and I'm excited for it.

Q:  How has it been in general being here at Pepperdine? What have you enjoyed? What have been maybe some of the difficulties?

A: I love being at Pepperdine because the people here are so great. I have made a ton of really close friends already, and the best part is that we are all living in the same place, so we get to see each other every day, even if it is just briefly. I love my classes and teachers, and obviously the campus is stunning. I feel so lucky. The difficulty would definitely be adjusting to the workload which is intense, especially when I have to balance it with being an athlete.

Q:  What are you most excited for this season?

A: Competing with a team! I can't wait to play in this way and have a coach on court with me. I think I will learn a lot from this experience!

Women's Tennis Update: Laura Gulbe

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Sophomore Laura Gulbe gives us the team's first update of the 2016 spring season, with the Waves' first match tomorrow against Ohio State at the ITA Weekend Kick-Off event hosted by TCU:

Laura  Gulbe

Hello from Texas!

The Pepperdine women`s tennis team is very fired up that the first match of the season is only a little more than a day away! We got to Texas earlier today and it felt like a very long day without an end. It all started with a wake up at 5 a.m., which is a pretty early start for not a morning person (like me, for example).

After a few sprints, including ones to the room for a forgotten passport, shuttle to LAX, flight, waiting again for a shuttle, and then arriving at the hotel, we headed straight to the tennis courts to have our first indoor hit this year! Everything took much longer than we expected, so we didn't even have time to have lunch today. It was pretty much a competition who ate more apples, and I am not sure who won.

Getting ready for matches is the most exciting part of practice. There is nothing like the feeling of making your own luck and I think everyone can relate to how exciting and overwhelming (and also tiring) sometimes preparation can get. To be honest, some days I've really had trouble falling asleep because of different reasons, such as being really excited for this season ... But, well, sometimes I kind of blamed it on the time difference ... :)

The team came back from the break reenergized, motivated and ready to become the best team we can be. We came back to work on court as soon as classes started last week, and it has been a process of improving something every day. For example, on the first day of practice we worked on our on-court attitude and body language. Then, another day we played standing from one spot because it was raining and the courts were very slippery, but we had to get at least some hitting in. It has been something different every day really. I think the most important part of practice is when you feel like you are tired, but you need to push through even if it can get a bit boring and repetitive. Now as the season is almost here we have to focus on the small important details and keeping cool under pressure, which at the end of the day is really only mental.

My thoughts right now are that we have to fight for every point, support each other, work hard to get better, listen to our coaches and embrace the opportunity to do what we love and are passionate about doing at such an amazing place. Every team we will play will try to beat us, but it is okay, because we will do our best, too. Of course I hope that every day all of us will play the best tennis, fire winners all over the court, but as we know it does not always work as we want it to be. Sometimes we will dig deep for every point and hopefully win ugly if that's what it will take. We have put in the work, and the best part is that everyone is finally healthy. So it can only get better from here on!

Right now I don't think rankings are something to focus on, because if we will compete hard and focus on what we can control (like our effort) the ranking will improve and so will the Pepperdine tennis program. The most important thing right now is to do whatever it takes to become a better player every match, and to have a positive attitude at every given moment. The harder we will compete and be more supportive for each other, the luckier we will get and will be better by the end of the season. Moving up the rankings is motivating, but I don't think that once you are on court a ranking is the right thing to have in mind. Sometimes thinking less is better, especially on the court... So I think that a good motivation is to want to give everything you have for the team, for you and for everyone that is supporting us!

Here we go Waves!

Freshman Luisa Stefani won the USTA/ITA Southwest Regional Championship in both singles and in doubles with partner Jean Runglerdkriangkrai last month. Stefani entered Pepperdine ranked #14 in the World Junior rankings. She discusses her transition to a collegiate athlete and highlights of her championships:

Q: What is the most challenging part of the transition to becoming a college athlete?

A: The first couple of weeks I was at Pepperdine, I was a bit overwhelmed with the amount of new things thrown at me all at once. The most challenging parts of this transition, tennis-wise, were to adapt to a completely new coaching style and fitness program, to practice and work as a team rather than individually, and to have a coach on court during matches. The biggest challenge about academics was to balance and manage my time in order to submit all my work on time, which was a lot more than I had done in high school.

Q: Did you face any challenges coming in to play such big competition as a freshman?

A: The competition on its own wasn't too different to what I have experienced before, the most challenging steps were just to get used to the things outside the competition as I mentioned before -- coaching, team, school, court surface -- so I could have my mind fresh to focus on the tournament.

Q: How has the competition changed from what you faced in juniors?

A: I think in juniors, the girls play more for themselves and compete to succeed as an individual and to reach their own goals, whereas at college tournaments I feel like the team atmosphere makes players not only compete for themselves, but mostly for the rest of the team as well. Besides, I think in junior tennis most of the top players have the goal to turn professional once their junior careers are over, whereas in collegiate tennis many of the top girls also want to play professionally later on, however generally speaking the percentage is not as high as compared to juniors.

Q: You won both doubles and singles at regionals, what was going through your head throughout the tournament?

A: When we drove to San Diego for regionals, my goal was to win the tournament so I would qualify for the National Indoors in New York, so I just thought about one match at a time to be able to do that.

Q: How do you focus on playing both as a partner and as an individual?

A: Singles and doubles are two completely different games, the main difference is that in doubles my partner and I -- in this case Jean -- have to work together, and use our games to help each other out in order to win, while in singles I only have to worry about myself -- and of course my opponent too -- but I have to problem-solve and play on my own.

Q: What do you like better?

A: I love both. Doubles is usually more fun because it is a lot more dynamic than singles, and I also love the volleying part, playing shorter points and talking to my partner throughout the match.

Q: What was your favorite/most memorable moment from the regional championship?

A: Besides winning it, it was fun to go to a haunted house with the team in our spare time.

Q: What is your favorite part about Pepperdine so far?

A: My favorite part about Pepperdine so far is to be able to practice, compete and hang out with an amazing group of girls in a beautiful place and usually under a sunny blue sky.

Women's Tennis Update: Laura Gulbe

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Laura Gulbe is in Seattle right now playing at the Washington Invitational with some members of the women's tennis team, while other Waves are playing at the Riviera/ITA All-America Championship. Still, she found time to check in with another update:

Laura  Gulbe

Twenty-three minutes to get stuff ready and go down to the training room, which takes exactly seven minutes. That's all we have in the very early mornings. Every minute counts, and every student knows exactly what I am talking about. It seems like there is always some place to be. Time is often the only thing that we seem to be lacking constantly. It is definitely better to do things a little too early than a second too late. It's all about the details and those small inches in the end...

That was what Thursday morning was like, before getting to the airport and catching our early-morning flight to Seattle. Almost half of the team is traveling this week, but somehow, it feels less. We always have fun in the airports. Thursday wasn't an exception, and Jean was on the airport floor rolling her muscles on a tennis ball (who cares what the other people think!), and everyone around was doing their own thing -- messaging friends, reading, having conversations or just wondering -- we've all been there! Airports make people zone out of this world and enter another one. Trips to competitions are always different compared to the ones coming back, because on the way back we all start to worry about school and assignments due the next day (or next few days).

This past weekend was big at Pepperdine, filled with lots of tennis, as we hosted the Riviera/ITA All-America pre-qualifying tournament. Lots of responsibilities for our coaches too, because of the amount of tasks they had to do to make the tournament happen. Players are supposed to have practice courts, the trainers have to be there from early morning to late at night, and the list of requirements to make a tournament go smoothly goes on forever. Luisa did an incredible job prequalifying and qualifying (winning six matches!) before the main draw started on Thursday. She has been on fire and representing the Waves with a lot of pride. Matea and Christine, our blondie power doubles team, made it into the main draw without having to play qualifying rounds, because of their outstanding performances produced last season -- and they won in the first round -- which is a great start!

It is insane to think that it is almost mid-October, and we are in Seattle playing indoor tennis. A month ago this trip seemed very far away, but it arrived faster than my fourth blog. Friday is match day for us here, as well as back at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades. Conditions here at the University of Washington are different from the ones back home, considering that the courts are faster, but everyone has to adapt to the same surface. I am looking forward to playing and the team is ready to 'pull some whip out!'

There have been ups and downs since this semester began, and we have learned a thing or two that has gone far beyond the classroom. I believe that the difficulties encountered are not stop signs, but motivation and guidelines that can help in the long term.

I want that my teammates to think of me as of a person that always tries that one extra time, pushes and encourages others to be better and never gives up. I don't want the fear to fail or to be embarrassed to keep me from achieving something bigger than average, both here as a Wave now and later on in life. I can't wait to see what the future holds because hard work always pays off!

Women's Tennis Update: Laura Gulbe

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Pepperdine sophomore Laura Gulbe gives us another update after the team's first tournament of the fall season:

Laura  Gulbe

What do you do when you are hurt, but want to keep playing? I guess one of the answers would be to try to learn how to take care of your body, that's for sure. All of us have to learn - every day. Nobody has a recipe what is the perfect amount of knowledge ... More is not always better, but there has to be balance in everything.

Between classes, practices, homework and other things it is easy to forget that sleep is also important, that nutrition is important, and that doing your injury prevention exercises is no less necessary than being out there running from side to side.

This past week has been hectic. Something kept coming up. Everyone has had some kind of struggle; however, I am positive that it's all going to get better as we get stronger and get some more experience under our belts. It is just the second week of practice, and the team has played two individual tournaments already.

Last weekend, Dzina and I played a tournament in San Francisco. Luisa, Matea and Christine competed at the Malibu Racquet Club. Both tournaments were a good experience us to get some matches, to compete and improve on something every match. Every single match was a battle and I think that tennis at the end is very much about willpower and confidence of how prepared you feel going into the match. Things can change, you can win a match after being down match-point, but before you even give yourself that chance to come back, you have to believe in yourself. It's always interesting, how everyone speaks about ''great comebacks.'' Actually, just doing ''your thing'' from the first ball takes about the same -- if not more -- concentration and effort.

After discussing with the team what drives each one of us, on the court, in the classroom and in everyday lives, we came along some really great values. There are desires to reach goals and to be the best people we can be, a lot of passion and determination to do something with our limited time. There are just 24 hours a day, and it's up to us to make them count (or not)! We can learn from yesterday's experiences, from each other's experiences, and just try our best to not step into the same paddle twice.

What really stuck out was how important the support system of family, friends and coaches are, how important it is to give that extra mile when your closest people are cheering you on either right by your side or in spirit. Sometimes just knowing that someone has your back is a feeling that gives you confidence and motivation!

During our busy everyday lives, it is human nature to often forget how grateful we should be for all that we have. Regardless of a situation, we should focus on the positives, and give a hundred percent in everything. That's our team goal. Most of the times, it will be enough, and sometimes maybe a little short, but if you gave it your all -- that's something that makes you satisfied at the end of the day and makes one hungry for more.

We all have that one little quiet moment before falling asleep, the moment of truth, when the only person you would be lying to is yourself. There is no point in that in doing that, however, because lying doesn't make you a better person. It limits your chances to grow as a person and mature as a human being. There are many things that can be powerful motivators, and it can be anything in the world. The choice is yours.

Women's Tennis Update: Laura Gulbe

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Pepperdine sophomore Laura Gulbe filed her second installment today about what's happening with women's tennis:

This week has been long, but we've been making every day count. Even though Monday was Labor Day and we didn't have class, it seems like a lot has happened over the week. There have been quite a few late-night classes, early-morning workouts and a bit of everything really. We've been busy, but it's been fun!

Every day has been a grind, and after the 5:30 a.m. workout it is hard not to fall asleep somewhere at some point during the day. However, our team was really good at waking up for the whole week, until the last day -- Friday. One of us overslept, and missed practice ... Which is quite bad, of course, but it has happened to all of us in one way or another. Everyone always thinks that it is not going to happen, but these things happen, and it's just human to make mistakes. However, we have to learn from our mistakes and try not to repeat them over again! So next time, not three alarms, but five everyone!

One of the biggest events in the world of sports has been taking place for the past two weeks in New York -- the U.S. Open. A freshman Wave, our teammate, Luisa Stefani, was competing in the juniors. Luisa has been very successful and reached the semifinal of doubles! Our Coach, Per Nilsson, was there supporting Luisa, and I am really glad he got to experience this successful week with her. It was an amazing experience for Luisa and the future looks very bright. I am sure that they are bringing lots of great memories back home tonight!

Meanwhile, here in Malibu, it has been a very good week with the crew. Even though we have tried and I think we've done well being responsible and doing what we have to do, we can't wait to have our coach back! It doesn't feel the same practicing without him. In season, sometimes we forget how blessed we are to have someone there for us every single day. Someone that cares and pushes us not only to be better tennis players, but also better people in everyday life. Often we get reminded about the small things, but the most important things that we constantly get reminded is to be there for your teammates and #STEPUP for each other! We have been spending much more time together as a team, and it has been fun hearing about the many different experiences everyone has had during the summer and over the first two weeks of classes!

As the sun is setting down, after a very warm September day, I am sitting in the Ralphs-Straus Tennis Center, facing the courts and I can't help but notice how dedicated and enthusiastic our fitness coaches are! They are here at the gym any given morning before any of us get here (or even are awake), and are still here more than 12 hours later. Dedication of our coaches is truly impressive, and they love what they do. Passion for the job definitely is one of the core values of what "Compete With Purpose'' really means. When you think about it, there are 17 teams that go through the athletes' gym almost every day. It's the coaches' belief in us, their passion toward sport and the idea of competing for something much bigger than themselves that keeps them going. We, student-athletes really appreciate all their efforts, even if we don't always show that. So, thanks to all of you, coaches, and a big shout out to our strength coach -- Stew! Our crew is looking forward to becoming the strongest and the fastest versions of what we can be!

When I think about it, it is really fascinating -- everyone is so different on our team, but at the end -- competing and working toward the same goals and same purpose. This semester is going to be about pushing each other, and I'm going to talk more about our goals and what drives us next week! Now it's time for Luisa, Per and Mario to get back to Pepperdine and get straight to work! We are excited -- are you?! #Timeogetstarted #WavesPurpose

 

Women's Tennis Update: Laura Gulbe

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Pepperdine sophomore Laura Gulbe filed this update on the start of the year for the women's tennis team:


My name is Laura Gulbe, and I am on the women's tennis team. This is only my second semester at Pepperdine; however, it has become my home away from home, which originally is in Riga, Latvia. Latvia is a beautiful, small country in Eastern Europe, and even has a maritime border with Sweden; the country where our head coach Per Nilsson is from!

My team is awesome and having such a great group of girls around is one of the best things about college tennis. It's a great feeling being on a team because we are all going through similar challenges, such as having to fight the jet lag of a 10-hour time difference at the beginning of the semester. On Friday we had a fitness test, since it was the first day of practice -- and now, looking back -- it was fun! We pushed each other and each girl gave all she had at that moment, which is what counts! All of us can improve, but I believe in our team!

Women's tennis is very cosmopolitan -- we come from all over the world, including five different continents! We are definitely one of the (if not the most) international sports team on campus. This semester we had three new girls coming in, which has already given the team a different feel! We also have three wonderful seniors. Last semester I was the rookie that came in, not knowing what to expect, and now ... well, in a year, I'll be one of the oldest members of the team! It is bizarre to think of it that way. I came to Pepperdine in a period of change.

This semester we are going to have a new assistant coach, Mario Toledo. I haven't met Mario just yet; however, I am extremely excited to meet and start working with him after hearing such good things about him!

We have a great team at Pepperdine, one that really makes you feel that everything is possible if you work hard and with a purpose. Every day you have to work hard -- in the classroom, on the tennis court and in the weight room -- but I am positive that it is going to pay off!

I am extremely thankful for this incredible opportunity to be a student-athlete here at Pepperdine and to keep track of what our team gets up to during this semester. Our off-season training has officially started, classes started this week and even though some moments it is definitely going to get a bit overwhelming ... all of the team is really excited to be here, and to make the most of every opportunity that will come our way! "Competing With Purpose" is something that drives us and makes working hard fun! #ROLLWAVES!

 

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