Dalton Tevlin/Asst. Sports Director
The FIU women’s tennis team is set to begin their spring season on Saturday, Jan. 26, against Marymount University.
The team have been undergoing a transition since last season, with the Panthers having to say goodbye to Andrea Lazzaro and Nerma Caluk, two of the best players in the country. The pair were leaders of the team and with five freshmen joining this season, there were leadership concerns, but Coach Katarina Petrovic isn’t too worried.
“Maryna [Veksler] is our senior and I think Maryna was the key person with Andrea and Nerma. It was a whole team effort last year so it’s very tough to put Maryna in a position to be the only team leader,” said Coach Petrovic.
For Maryna Veksler, the opportunity to help the young freshman as they become adjusted to life here at FIU is exciting.
“It’s really exciting to help the girls, I remember how it was for me coming as a freshman. It was really tough in the beginning especially because we were playing in Europe,” Veksler said. “I was really excited to take control as a leader and be the one who can help them with that transition.”
Petrovic has told the team– specifically the freshman– that they need everyone to step up as a leader, not just Veksler.
“She has done a great job at being an example and she loves her team and FIU. Maryna is a true FIU student,” said Petrovic.
The team is comprised of entirely international players, many of them being European. The change in scenery sounds like it would be a huge adjustment for them, but it may be easier than most people think.
“The good thing with tennis is that it’s an international sport, so most of the players here have traveled pretty much everywhere…it wasn’t a big adjustment and was quite an easy transition,” said Petrovic.
For Veksler, who has played international tennis her whole life, said the different athletic system was what made her transition difficult.
“It’s harder here but they set a goal and they build a practice process,” Veksler said. “It’s a really good system here and not just in tennis, I see it across many sports here.”
Petrovic said that the Student-Athlete Academic Center was also a big help to the players during their transition to the University. The girls on the tennis team don’t find much time to go out and explore the fun Miami has to offer as the team boasted one of the highest team GPA of any sport at FIU with a 3.65.
The biggest strength Petrovic sees in her team, she said, is their commitment to work hard and improve.
“They are willing to step up, we have a very good system and coaches and if they follow the system they should do well,” said Petrovic.
The lady Panthers have found success over the past few seasons, going 21-2 last season and 51-11 over the past three years, and hope to continue their winning streak this season.
Feature image contributed by FIU Athletics