May 9, 2012
The 2012 season is wrapped up for the Husky women's tennis team with the exception of senior Denise Dy, who still has the NCAA Singles tourney ahead. It was a roller coaster ride of a year with four new freshmen and many unfortunate injuries that slowed down what had been an impressive start for the Huskies and caused them to miss the NCAA tourney for the first time since 2007. Still, all four freshmen showed tons of potential, and learned a lot from their first college season. Natali Coronel, a native of Argentina, was one of those freshmen, going 11-13 in her first year but missing several weeks during the season with persistent pain in both feet. She came back late in the season and had dual match wins against Colorado and Washington State. Coronel talks about learning from year one, her goals for a digital arts major, and the new sport she plans to take up this summer.
GoHuskies.com: Talk about the ups and downs of this first season. What do you think the returning players will take away from the year?
Natali Coronel: It was really, really tough. It's really hard when you have half of the team injured. We weren't sure if we would be able to have six players to play against the other schools. Also we had four freshmen. I think maybe that was one of the reasons that we didn't do as well. It's our first year and we didn't have as much experience as other girls. All the new things, school, a lot of practice, a new language for all of us except Riko, it's a lot to take in. I think we are going to learn a lot from this experience for the next few years. It was pretty tough, but everything will be helpful for the future.
GH: Did things improve for you as the year progressed? What helped the transition?
NC: Learning time management. Now I feel I organize myself better, and I've been more relaxed. The first two quarters I was studying all the time, every second, and didn't even rest one day. Now I feel more relaxed, I take more hours to just do other stuff aside from school and tennis, and I feel much better this quarter.
GH: So talk a little bit about your foot problems and how are things looking now?
NC: It was hard not being able to play a lot, especially in the winter season, I felt bad. And the worst part is I didn't even know what I had, because I had an MRI and everything was okay. I didn't have a fracture or anything, it was even hard to believe sometimes, because it really hurt. But I'm getting orthotics now which should help, so I'm happy about that.
GH: You missed some matches and then came back for a few but then had to sit again at the end of the season. Was it the same problem coming back?
NC: Yes, I rested for one month, and then came back for about two weeks and it was okay. I felt some pain but I kept playing. But then before long it was the same problem. So one of my main goals is just to keep myself healthy next year.
GH: How are classes going for you? Have you thought much about a major yet?
NC: I changed my mind a lot of times concerning my major, so I've been switching my classes to the requirements for certain majors. But mostly I'm just taking general requirements with a few classes for what I want to major in now, DX Arts and Experimental Media. I'm happy with that now. It's kind of hard to get into the major, they just accept fifteen percent of the applicants, but I'm doing okay so far.
GH: Will you be going back to Argentina this summer?
NC: Yeah, I'm going back home. I need to rest. I was pretty tired after winter quarter.
GH: What's your hometown like?
NC: It's kind of a small town. It's also kind of far away from everything. That's why it's hard for me to find some places to practice, because I have to travel a lot by bus. I used to travel every day two to three hours by bus to practice, so it was pretty tough.
GH: At what point did you first start thinking about playing college tennis in America?
NC: When I was sixteen. I was having a hard time playing tournaments. My parents weren't able to afford all the trips, so I couldn't really compete and couldn't really have good training sometimes. I managed to play, but it's not quite the same when you don't have everything you need. It was pretty hard to find a good sponsor. I had some offers but they always know your situation and they can take advantage of that, and I didn't want that. I also wanted to keep enough time for my studies. I don't know, it's weird, but since I was little I always liked studying.
GH: What was the next step?
NC: I still had the idea or dream that something would change to be playing professionally, but nothing was happening and when I was eighteen it was the right time to come to college, although it was a little late, but I started looking at universities on the internet and when I saw this campus I loved it. This university was doing well academically and also in tennis. Also, it was in Seattle which is pretty different from Texas where a lot of South American people go. I just wanted to start from zero and forget about old bad experiences.
GH: You four freshman come from very diverse backgrounds. Did it take time to get along?
NC: Yeah, we are all different, I'm the only one from South America. We have different beliefs and different ways of being. That's kind of tough sometimes, because you're with the same people all the time. But I think we're doing well right now and it's working.
GH: Who did you live with in the dorms this year?
NC: I lived with a golf player from Korea. She's really nice, we understand each other perfectly.
GH: I'm sure there are huge differences, but how is Seattle compared to Buenos Aires?
NC: It's totally different. When I came here I was able to go anywhere I wanted to go, and at home you always have to be careful because it's kind of dangerous. I feel free here, I don't know, I feel great. I don't have any problems being alone, I used to travel a lot when I was little, so I've always been like that. I mean, I miss my family, but I've been so busy I haven't really had a lot of time to dwell on it.
GH: What parts of your on-court game do you think need work for next season?
NC: I think one of my main problems was my fitness. At the start of the season I was improving little by little, but then I always had an injury that didn't allow me to keep improving and I had to start from zero again. I felt so confident in my game. I felt like I could play one hundred balls every point, but then my legs or my foot or something hurt.
GH: Any plans for how you'll spend your summer?
NC: I want to try crew. I'm going to practice. Saturday (at the Windermere Cup) was the first time I went to a race, to see the Argentinean team, and I really want to try it now. It's good for your body. I'm going to train so hard this summer!
GH: So you might come back this fall and walk-on to the crew team?
NC: I don't think so! They are heavyweights (laughs), and they are like two meters taller than me.
GH: Anything you need to do for your arts major?
NC: I'm going to practice some animation this summer. Using computers to create movies, cartoons, commercials, just to be creative. I really love special effects. I created some videos at home but just for fun. I remember I was really dedicated to it; I spent a lot of time working on the details.
GH: How old were you when you first started playing tennis?
NC: Eight, almost nine. It was pretty random. I was with my family at a club, and we were just going to have a barbecue and have a nice day. We just saw some tennis courts, and I didn't know what they were I just said "What is that?" Of course it was impossible for my parents to afford a membership, but there was an offer of thirty days for free, so that's how I started. I really liked to run a lot. My Dad wanted me to have a sport so that was it. I was the first one to play, but now my sisters are playing tennis also. They're pretty good but they cannot really travel either. The little one, she is like me in a lot of ways. She likes to travel and go to different places and meet people.
GH: Thanks for chatting, and have a great rest of the quarter and a nice summer at home!
NC: Thanks! I hope I don't lose my English because I'm going to be talking in Spanish for three months. The Argentinean guys from the crew team, I was speaking English to them and then speaking Spanish to my friends and I was totally confused (laughs). When you hear both languages at the same time it's kind of confusing.