Last fall, Lewis & Clark senior Wiktoria Plawska won the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Regional Championship singles final to advance to the Oracle Cup. The following is a recap of her experience, in her own words.
"Wiktoria, I'm not coming next weekend," Marco says as he looks at me intensely. After a moment of confusion, my heart drops. I've been practicing so well, conditioning three times a week at 6 a.m., lifting weights. I felt so confident. I haven't played a single competitive tennis match without Marco Pineda, one of our tennis coaches, on my tennis court, strategizing the game and creating constant references to the parallel strategies of chess. I cried that evening, thinking my chances to win the PNW ITA Championships were over.
During the initial parts of the tournament, I was not playing well, just enough to scrape by. In the quarterfinals, I lost the first set to someone I had beaten last year and then was down four match points. At that moment, I lost all tension in my body. It was over, I thought, and that was ok. But, I won the next three points to make it even. Two more points and I would go to the semis. I had a mental breakthrough and won. I was able to come back and win all by myself. After that, I was unstoppable. The semis flew past and then I was onto the finals, exactly where I wanted to be. I was so excited. I only needed one more match to win the whole tournament! I listened to my favorite pump-up songs by Flatbush Zombies and then Closer by Chainsmokers to get stuck in my head on repeat - it was perfect. My body was vibrating with energy. After the first couple of games, I knew that I could not lose. It was the most focused I've ever been in my life. I knew what I wanted and I would do everything to get there. Each point I won fueled me with more focus and excitement to win.
The last few points of the match, my heart raced and my hands shook as sweat poured down my entire body. It was one of the most overwhelming feelings of joy and intense accomplishment in my life. The moments on the last two points were so beautiful. All of my teammates, coaches and spectators hugged and shook hands with me. For days after I was riding on cloud nine. I am so thankful to my teammates and coaches, and Dad, for shaping me into the player I've become. The day that I won ITAs - October 2 - was also my Dad's birthday. Making him proud on his birthday added to the happiness of the weekend.
The next step after winning the ITAs was to travel with head coach Patrick Dreves to Phoenix, Ariz. to compete in the Oracle Cup, previously known as the National Small College Championships. I had never been to Arizona, so I was looking forward to exploring a new state. The weather, of course, was vastly different. It was 95 degrees every day that we were there and mostly cloudless. The tournament location, Surprise Tennis and Racket Club, is a huge complex with 25 courts, and only a five-minute drive from our hotel. Surprise was hosting all of the best men and women's tennis student-athletes from all four NCAA divisions, so the vibe was incredibly focused, competitive and excited.
I played my first and only match Wednesday morning. I had warmed up very well and was feeling fantastic. It was a tough match; I wasn't dictating points in the first set which led me to lose it fairly easily. I became more aggressive and active in the second but missed a couple of key shots when I was up 5-4 in the second, which decided the match. It was unfortunate to go home after just two days, but I am looking forward to the spring season. Patrick and I ate some delicious, local Tex-Mex and strolled in the Desert Botanical Garden looking at various types of cacti (photo below), which was a fun way to end the trip. I bought a miniature pepper plant.
Practice has started and the team is looking better than ever. I am looking forward to all of us reaching our highest potential this semester. Our prospects are looking high and I'm excited about the first match in February and see the results of our coaching and training become tangible once more.
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