With 16 out of its 18 athletes calling a country other than the United States home, Northwest tennis is the one program on campus with a greater margin of overseas athletes than any other team.
Countries like Germany, Spain, Russia, Greece and France are just a few of the locations listed on the 2019-20 tennis roster. While recruiting athletes to play for such a consistently winning team like Northwest’s may seem easy. Smaller things like changes in culture, language and school structure can be the hardest aspects athletes have to adapt to.
“Out of the college, in general, I was shocked when I arrived here,” sophomore and Italian native Andrea Zamurri said. “The streets are so big. The cars are big, and I don't know why the cars are so big. The people are big too. I was shocked when I arrived here but these are the main differences.”
Though for some schools it may seem hard to contact and persuade a student from another country to travel across the world to play tennis, many of the team’s athletes have heard about Northwest and chose to come to Maryville for its tight knit community and successful tennis program.
While deciding to come play for Northwest and adjusting to the changes from their home countries to the U.S. may be a lot to handle, many of the tennis athletes are here for one reason: tennis.
“I'm here because I wanted to do an experience out of Italy,” Zamurri said. “The organization in Italy makes sure the guys choose the best university in the U.S. There were a lot of different choices, but I chose the Northwest because it was the best tennis team,.”
Though many aspects of life have been big adjustments for much of the team, tennis seems to be the one place where all differences subside. Traveling across seas to play with people from around the globe may seem like a daunting task, but the close-knit bond the team has helped to overcome this fear. Overlooking the background, upbringing and homelife of each athlete, the courts are where the team becomes unified.
“I think tennis is the only sport where all nations become closer to each other,” freshman player and Moscow native Vera Alenicheva said. “Tennis players mostly are the same. So, I can't say anything about the Russians, the Americans or the German players. That's why I like tennis, because it’s a worldwide sport, and it doesn't matter where you're from — all players are the same.”
Allowing players from across the globe to come and play tennis for the University not only brings vast talent and diversity to the University, but also gives the athletes an opportunity to experience a place outside of their home country. For many, this is their first time away from home.
College athletics and the ability to further their tennis career is a dream few countries other than the United States have, so this is a chance for these athletes to continue to compete in the sport they’ve trained their whole lives for.
“College sports — this is an amazing thing. That’s why I came here,” Alenicheva said. “The United States is the only country that has this opportunity. So, I played tennis for 10 years. How am I supposed to stop doing that? This is a great opportunity for me, and I’m glad I’m using this opportunity.”