Q. How old were you when you began playing tennis?
A. My dad took me out to try to make contact with the ball around age 3, but I played my first tournament when I was 8.
Q. Who inspired you to play and love the game of tennis?
A. My dad. He was the one who taught me how to play, who practiced with me after work, and who used up all of his vacation days and more to take me to tournaments. He made it fun for me and used tennis and competition to help teach me about things in life outside of tennis. When I was 12, I loved watching Justine Henin, a Belgian pro, play on TV, and watching her play inspired me to get better. Now that I’m on a college team, my teammates inspire me to continue to work hard and improve and still love the game because it’s brought us together.
Q. You just completed your sophomore year at Williams College in Massachusetts. What factors lead to your decision to attend Williams College to continue your educational and tennis career?
A. I wanted to go to a school with strong academics where I could also play tennis, and Williams fit that description perfectly. It’s a small school with a strong academic reputation where students learn in a close-knit environment. I wanted to play Division III tennis so that I could continue to enjoy the sport while finding enough time to study and do other things, like sing in an a cappella group. Williams offered all of those things to me. Those were all things I was looking for in a school before I actually visited schools. But when I visited Williams, I discovered that the people there were awesome; they were incredibly nice, and every single person seemed to be involved in the school in more than one way. The people at Williams solidified my decision to want to go there.
Q. What is your major?
A. I’m majoring in English, while also taking a pre-med curriculum.
Q. Williams College is a Division III women’s tennis power. National Champions the last four years, and six National Championships in the last 11 years. What factors lead to such great success?
A. The main factor, which might sound surprising, is the closeness of our team. We are all best friends, and so it adds a whole new level to playing a tennis match. Our team has a history of this, so our closeness extends out to our alumni as well. When pressure builds up in a match, we’re not just playing for ourselves; we’re playing for our best friends. It adds a whole new desire and motivation. We all work hard and put in a lot of hours on the court, which obviously is important, but our biggest matches have always been won because we play for each other.
Q. Your head coach is Alison Swain? What an amazing record her teams have accomplished. What do you contribute to her success?
A. Alison is incredibly organized and is always looking to help us improve. She gives us the toughest schedule of matches so that we go into post-season having played the top teams in the country. Every practice is organized so that no time is wasted, and every drill is set up for a particular purpose for each individual. She is always thinking about even the slightest ways to help us improve and helps us to never be satisfied, in other words to recognize and celebrate our accomplishments but to always want to do better and take it to the next level at the same time.
Q. I have been associated with school mascots by the names of REDBUGS and WAMPUS CATS, but EPHS? Explain that for me.
A. Ephraim Williams founded the school, so “Ephs” comes from his name. We’re also the purple cows.
Q. What racquet do you use? Strings? Tension? Do you use the same racquet for both singles and doubles?
A. I use a Babolat Pure Drive and string it with Luxilon M2 Pro at 53 lbs. I use the same racquet for both singles and doubles.
Q. Nancy, I have been researching the Williams College website for your accomplishments this year. Take us through your thought processes during this crucial match?
A. I was playing Laura Danzig, a very accomplished player from Amherst College, whom I have played several times this year and the year before. I had lost to her twice and also beaten her twice in the past. She is a very aggressive player who is always looking to take balls on the rise and move in to the net. She was successfully imposing her game on me until I was down 6-3, 4-1. At this point, four of our other five singles matches were losing. I could keep track because there was an electronic scoreboard for all of us to see. I tried to step back and focus on smaller things, like hitting cross-court more and just trying to make the points longer so that the match would not end. I tried not to think about anything else. By doing this and lifting the ball more out of her strike zone, I was able to slowly come back and win that set 7-5. At this point, our #4 player had won, and everyone else but #5 had lost. So one of us had to win in order to win as a team. Our #5 player, Nikki, was dealing with several injuries and had played a long, hard-fought doubles match prior to her singles match, and she had just split sets. Nikki really inspired me during that match because she has come through as the fifth deciding point in important matches before, including her freshman year in the finals of Nationals against Washington and Lee, and knowing that she had to have been more tired than me and was fighting so hard drove me to keep going. The third set for both of us was close, but she ended up losing in a close one. Thinking about all of my best friends cheering for me on the sidelines and all of our alums were watching online was the best thing I could do, and I thought only about them and trying to be as consistent as possible. They were all smiling every time I looked over instead of looking stressed, and this helped me the most. These things helped me to come back when I was losing 3-5 and then 5-6 before I won the tiebreaker 7-2.
Q. You come from a tennis playing family. Tell us about this upbringing and how it has influenced your life.
A. My dad and my sister both play, and while my mom does not, she has always been extremely supportive. I quickly learned that tennis was a huge commitment and that I would have to sacrifice things for it if I wanted to improve and play in college. My family helped me learn that some of the small things I might have missed out on every now and then before college were more than worth it; I have gotten more out of junior tennis and especially college tennis than I could have ever asked for. It helped to have my sister at tournaments with me because we learned this together. Tennis has helped me learn the importance of discipline and a hard work ethic on and off the court, and, most importantly it has forced me to perform in competitive, pressure situations, which I feel can help me off the court.
Q. When you are back in your hometown, what are your favorite restaurants to eat?
A. I love Camellia Grill and Theo’s Pizza.
Q. Where is your place of worship?
A. Rayne United Methodist Church