March 14, 2013
#43 WASHINGTON AT #55 OREGON
March 15 | 12 pm | Student Tennis Complex | Eugene, Ore. Live Stats
EUGENE, Ore. -- No. 43 Washington (8-5, 0-2 Pac-12) continues Pac-12 play on Friday at Oregon, but the short trip down I-5 won't be much in the way of travel for the Huskies. These Dawgs come from all corners of the World and with just one upper-classmen it is a young team on the rise.
The lone upperclassman in Andjela Nemcevic, a junior, who thought she didn't even want to attend college, let alone come leave her home of Belgrade, Serbia.
She grew up loving to ski, but found tennis at age seven through her father, an avid sportsman.
"Once I started playing tennis, I just stuck with it," said Nemcevic. "I guess it is kind of like a drug for me. I just love the competition and was able to be successful at a young age."
Nemcevic began playing competitive tennis at age 11 and by 15 was a star in junior tournaments in Europe. Still, attending college or coming to the U.S. were not on her radar.
"I started getting contacted by college coaches when I was 15, but at that point I wasn't really interested in going to college," said Nemcevic. "I guess it wasn't until I was 17 or 18 that I started thinking about going down that road."
Interested in science, Nemcevic cross-referenced top schools in the sciences and women's tennis and Washington was on the short list.
She spoke with head coach Jill Hultquistand despite offers from some other top schools, chose UW because Hultquist was the most persistent and the tradition of Serbian players at Washington.
This is where Husky men's coach Matt Anger might have assisted the women's squad as he had previously recruited Alex Vlaski and Alex Slovic from Serbia, both who ended up as All-Americans at Washington.
Now, it is Hultquist with the Serbian pipeline as she went back to Belgrade a year later, to bring in Julija Lukac, a current sophomore and key piece of the women's squad. Lukac teams with Nemcevic in doubles as the duo has clear chemistry on the court.
"Yes, I helped talk Julija into coming," said Nemcevic. "I wasn't the main factor though; she also wanted to come somewhere strong in science."
The academic aspect of Washington is not lip-service as both Nemcevic and Lukac are excellent students. Nemcevic majors in biology and carries a 3.49 grade-point average, including a 3.94 last quarter when she was named to the Dean's List. Lukac's GPA is 3.52 as a science pre-major.
Overall, women's tennis has an amazing 3.50 team GPA.
She accepted her role, playing down in the lineup and adjusted to collegiate tennis.
"I was just trying to learn everything I could. I looked up to Venise, Denise and Sam (Samantha Smith) as my role models. It's weird, I guess I just worked really hard and listened to my coaches, knowing the results would come."
Her patience has paid off big time this season as Nemcevic has taken over the role as the team's No. 1 player. She briefly earned an ITA national ranking, before falling out of the ranks last week.
For her, she knows it is far from a finished product, both for her and the team.
"I was just patient and it is starting to pay off," said Nemcevic. "I know that in the future it is going to pay off even more."
The same can be said for Washington as a team.
"I felt pressure to be a leader because I am the only junior and honestly I haven't had an experience like this before. My first two years prepared me for this, but really I am just lucky to have such awesome teammates. This is such a group of talented girls, tennis-wise, school-wise and everyone is a good person."
Nemcevic also mentions her countrywoman Lukac as taking on a leadership role, along with Elianne Douglas-Miron, a Canadian, who despite being just a freshman is already stepping up as a leader.
Nemcevic uses her own experience of being patient and knowing the results will come when leading the team. She realizes it won't happen overnight, but with such a young and talented team, she understands just how bright the future is for the Husky women.
"I can see this team coming together and having success in the future. It takes some time to adjust to college tennis because it is so different than juniors. Especially with this being such an international team, we are still adjusting."
Along with the two Serbians and a Canadian, Washington's roster also contains Grace Ysidora, a freshman from Indonesia, Capucine Gregoire, a sophomore from France, Natali Coronel, a sophomore from Argentina and three Americans, none of which come from the Northwest.
Perhaps the greatest tie to the Northwest is Brianna Kemp, who grew up in Southern California, but is the daughter of former Sonic great Shawn Kemp. Otherwise it is another Californian in sophomore Riko Shimizu and a freshman Sarah Steele, from Hawai'i.
"I think we have someone from every continent," joked Nemcevic.
Well not Australia, or Antarctica for that matter.
"At first it was honestly frustrating," remarked Nemcevic of the cultural differences. "Now, we all get along so well. I think we just realized everyone is such a nice person and we are all here for the same thing."
Nemcevic has taken on a leadership role integrating the team, along with Lukac as peer advocates. They try to get the team together to go to the movies or invite them over to their apartment to make Serbian Crepes.
Talented and growing together, Washington is ready to make a run this season.
"NCAA's are obviously the goal," said Nemcevic. "Last year we didn't make NCAA's, but I went there my freshman year and it is such a great experience."
For now, Washington will concentrate on getting its first Pac-12 win against Oregon on Friday at noon. The Ducks are newly ranked, coming into the ITA rankings at No. 55 after a 10-1 start to the season.
Nemcevic may be new to Washington, but she has learned one thing.
"We need to beat the Ducks."