Freshman finds role on team


Sean Hastings

Freshman Emily Pugachevsky returns the ball in her singles match against EKU. Pugachevsky said she plays tennis for the adrenaline rush.

Parker Valentine, Women's Tennis Writer

Emily Pugachevsky was nine years old when she started playing tennis.

Born in Israel, Pugachevsky moved to Toronto when she was 2 years old.

For her elementary education, Pugachevsky went to a private school. Her school had a program that would take the students to play tennis at a club once every two weeks.

This program is where Pugachevsky met her first coach, Valeri Iagolnik. Iagolnik noticed her hustle and determination immediately.

“I tried really hard and I stood out apparently,” Pugachevsky said. “The coach noticed me and told me I have talent. He wrote a note to my dad and my parents signed me up.”

From that point forward, tennis became a constant part of Pugachevsky’s life. Iagolnik was a strong positive influence in her life from then on. He helped her find something she loved.

“I usually quit everything I start; tennis is the only thing I never quit. I really like it,” said Pugachevsky.

Before leaving Canada, Pugachevsky played in numerous national events from Toronto. In 2012, she won the Ontario Tennis Association’s Roman Cup Tournament from the U14 and U16 categories.

Pugachevsky attributes her commitment to both her coaches and her father.

“The coaches actually believed in me, they made me want to be better at it,” Pugachevsky said.   

After elementary school, she moved to Boca Raton, Fla. to attend the Evert Tennis Academy.

At Evert, tennis is a full-time job. Pugachevsky completed her school work online and trained consistently and said that she does not like the easy route when it comes to tennis.

“I don’t like playing easy matches. When I win 6-0, 6-0, that’s not fun for me, it has to be competitive. I like when it’s tough, when I’m in the third set and everyone is counting on me,” Pugachevsky said.

When deciding which college to attend, Eastern stuck out to her immediately.

“I came to Eastern because everyone is so close. I went to other schools and nobody was as close, they were more separate,” Pugachevsky said. “My teammates are my best friends.”

One teammate Pugachevsky has formed a strong bond with on the court is sophomore Shristi Slaria. The duo holds the Panthers best doubles record this season, at 7-3.

One of the strongest aspects of their relationship is how direct they can be with each other.

“(Shristi) is very tough. If I’m not doing something right, she’ll tell me immediately so I can fix it right away,” Pugachevsky said.

One thing to help Pugachevsky get ready for matches, is listening to music.

“I don’t have a routine before matches, I just have to dance. I need music, I need to jump a few times and dance and I’m good,” Pugachevsky said.

Pugachevsky wants to follow in her father’s footsteps. She recently picked up her major in finance and would like to go into business after her time at Eastern is up. Her father owns a brokerage firm in Canada.

Pugachevsky’s father has always been a strong role model in her life. He always pushes her to strive for success.

“My dad always pushes me, I wanted to quit tennis many times but my dad helped me realize how much I love it,” Pugachevsky said. “If it wasn’t for my dad, I wouldn’t be playing college tennis.”

She has formed a bond with head coach Emily Wang during her time here as well.

“She helped me realize the type of player I am. She helped me find my strengths,” Pugachevsky said. “She also helps me out with school. She looks out for me, I really appreciate her because she really tries to help us.”

Coach Wang is always there for her players. She also appreciates their individual traits.

“It has been fun getting to know Emily this year. She is a fierce competitor and works hard. She has been a great fit for the team and I am excited to see what she will do in her next three years on and off the court here at EIU,” Wang said.

Parker Valentine can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]