Different backgrounds shape Panthers


Sean Hastings

Sophomore Stella Cliffe hits a forehand in her doubles match with partner Grace Summers. Cliffe and Summers won 6-4. The women’s tennis team does not have a player from Illinois, but all agree the different backgrounds have helped them grow together.

Dillan Schofheide, Women's Tennis Reporter

Eastern is no stranger to international and out-of-state athletes.

These athletes have made names for themselves as Panthers and have become key players for their respective teams. For example, Grace Lennox, the senior point guard on the women’s basketball team, is from Hobart, Tasmania.

But no other team at Eastern can boast the same unique identity that the women’s tennis team has: not one player is from Illinois.

Every other athletic team at Eastern has at least one of its players from various parts of Illinois (the men’s golf team is close, but senior Alex Gowin is from Charleston).

Four players from the women’s tennis team are international players, while the other five are from four different states.

Srishti Slaria, a junior from Hyderabad, India, has the second-longest trip to get home from the U.S. (sophomore Stella Cliffe has to fly a couple hours longer to get back to Auckland, New Zealand).

“I dread the traveling part the most,” Slaria said. “I usually take a direct flight home which is about 15 hours long. And as luck would have it, I am a pathetic sleeper while traveling, and so by the end of the journey I am so tired that I can’t even think properly.”

Not to mention, Hyderabad is approximately 10 and half hours ahead of Charleston, so Slaria said her sleep schedule is disrupted completely when she travels.

But playing with her teammates is an experience Slaria loves. Because everyone is from a different area, she likes the different perspectives everyone has.

“For me, life is an amalgam of experiences, and the more diverse the experiences, the better and more challenging life,” she said. “If everyone does things the same way, then it will get boring.”

Freshman Claire Martin agrees with Slaria and enjoys the diverse background each player has.

Both said they have gotten to learn about the different places everyone is from, and Martin believes the diverse backgrounds helps the team.

“I think by being from other countries and not all from the Midwest or somewhere nearby adds another aspect to the college experience,” Martin said.

Martin is from Chesterfield, Missouri, but she is able to have some common ground with junior Abby Carpenter, who is from 18 minutes away in Wildwood.

“(The topic of our backgrounds) comes up especially when it’s around a major break when people start going home,” she said. “Also just in casual conversations someone will talk about something back from their home that’s either similar to or different from here.”

Hometowns are not the only differential between the players, as sophomore Shelby Anderson, from Lake Elmo, Minnesota, has another sport in her portfolio: she played one year of hockey in high school.

Even though the athletes can share their backgrounds, the difference in travel time will always be something only some of the players can relate to each other about. Freshman Rachel Papavasilopoulos who, by car, has approximately a 17-hour ride home to Boca Raton, Florida.

Even though it is a tiring journey, Slaria loves going home when she can. 

“I keep joking my teammates that if I went back home for a long weekend holiday, I’d have to land and take off immediately in India to be back in time,” she said.

Dillan Schorfheide can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]