Freshman overcomes struggles in fall season

Kaitlin Cordes, Features Reporter

Freshman tennis player Claire Martin admitted that her first semester as an Eastern athlete did not come easy.

Martin’s start to her collegiate athletic career put her in a place in which all confidence in her abilities ceased. She said while many factors contributed to her struggles, it was the absence of an instructor that impacted her the most.

“One of the factors was that we didn’t have a coach. I’ve been fortunate to always have a coach at tournaments and at practices, but over the fall, when we were coach-less, I felt like my strokes were deteriorating and I felt like I couldn’t count on them as much as I used to,” Martin said.

Martin said she slowly started to regain her self-assurance over the Thanksgiving and winter breaks, when she said she played tennis almost every day. Now, in the spring semester, Martin said she focuses on every drill in practice because they each serve a purpose in gameplay and will continue to help her improve.

The women’s team is currently coached by the men’s tennis coach, Sam Kercheval, and assistant coach Kevin Hussey from the Kinesiology department. Martin said she is grateful for the two’s guidance, and their coaching has helped ease some concerns on the team.

Gaining her confidence back has benefited Martin mid-season, too. Individually, she is currently 6-12 overall and she and her doubles partner, junior Srishti Slaria, are 4-8 overall.

Martin recently played doubles with senior Grace Summers in a double-header against Illinois-Springfield and IUPUI. The duo swept at the No. 3 spot, picking up a 6-0 win. Individually, Martin won in straight sets against Illinois-Springfield opponent Kate Dumstorff (6-0, 6-0).

Martin said one of her goals for her rookie season was to win in both the singles and doubles lineups. She said she and Slaria are currently rotating in the No. 6 spot and Martin wants to continue to do so to gain more experience and set bigger goals to aim for.

Continuing to grow in gameplay has deep roots for Martin. She said even as a youngster, she was encouraged by her family to follow her passion for tennis.

“I started tennis was I was around 8 years old. My grandpa still plays tennis a few times a week and he signed me up for my first clinic. It was something that he wanted to pass down to me, and it was a great idea on his part because I’m still here playing the game today,” Martin said. “In seventh grade, I played my first real tournament, and that made me more motivated to play. At that point I knew that I wanted to keep playing in the years to come.”

Martin said her family is her cornerstone in not only tennis, but also every aspect of her life. The Chesterfield, Mo. native said she makes the two and a half hour drive back home every weekend to spend time with her mom, dad and sister, Ellie.

Martin said she and her sister are so close that they never fight, and she labeled spending time with her family as her hobby. Being less than three hours away also makes the distance from her family seem a little less.

Martin has gained a family while attending Eastern, too. She said she has found solace in her teammates, especially Slaria, Summers and junior Abby Carpenter.

Martin and Carpenter are both from the St. Louis area, so the two were able to practice together over the summer. Martin said Carpenter is one of her biggest tennis role models because Carpenter made an effort to make sure she felt comfortable and welcome in her new adventure as an Eastern athlete.

As for her team overall, Martin said she’s glad she chose to play for Eastern.

“Overall, the group we have on this team is really special and makes tennis fun. Of course, we all have our days where we are stressed about school or the coaching situation, but I think we’ve really come to learn more about each other to help us function as a team,” Martin said.

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]