Emily Pugachevsky, a sophomore on Eastern’s women’s tennis team, wanted to get away from her family, at first, when she made the trip to Florida by herself toward the end of 2013.
She made the trip from her then home, Toronto, to further her tennis career and train in the Sunshine State. She said she wanted to get better at tennis because she started playing late, around 10 or 11 years old, while others start a lot earlier.
But then, she said, it was hard to be away from her family.
“After a few months, I wanted to go back,” she said.
“Well (she was) 12, so it’s understandable,” Rachel Papavasilopoulos, a freshman on Eastern’s women’s tennis team, told the sophomore Pugachevsky.
The way the two interact with each other now was something they did not do when they first met.
Papavasilopoulos was 12 at the time, and Pugachevsky had just joined Papavasilopoulos’ tennis academy after leaving a bigger one she attended before.
They both had different perceptions of each other when they first talked to each other, but eventually they would help one another with different things.
For Pugachevsky, Papavasilopoulos helped her feel more comfortable while she was away from her family and they became friends.
Pugachevsky also had a host family that she said has since become like her second family. Her bonding time with Papavasilopoulos and Papavasilopoulos’ family was great too, she said.
The two had sleepovers at each others’ houses and frequent malls together.
They ended up growing so close that Papavasilopoulos says that Pugachevsky is her family’s favorite.
“Her grandma is Israeli and I’m from Israel; we bonded. I love her grandma,” Pugachevsky said.
In contrast to what happened after they started talking to each other more, they did not really know what to think about each other at first.
Well, Pugachevsky did.
“Didn’t you say you didn’t like me or something?” Papavasilopoulos said to Pugachevsky. Pugachevsky responded and said, “Yeah I don’t know, she just talked a lot.”
Papavasilopoulos got an offended look on her face and replied, “You’re so mean.” They both laughed.
Papavasilopoulos said that she did not think anything of Pugachevsky until they started talking.
After approximately three years in Florida, Pugachevsky returned home and her family has since moved to Alberta. Then in the 2016-2017 school year, she started playing at Eastern as Papavasilopoulos was a senior in high school.
Papavasilopoulos was looking at colleges that could give her a nice balance of tennis and academics but had no luck at first. That is where Pugachevsky helped her friend out by suggesting she visit Eastern.
Papavasilopoulos said she had four bad experiences in a row when visiting different schools, but her visit at Eastern was a breath of fresh air.
She liked the atmosphere at Eastern a lot, saying that the other places she visited felt too “city-like.” She also liked everything Pugachevsky told her about Eastern and she got to spend 48 hours with the women’s team during her visit.
Eastern had a small and “homey” feel, Papavasilopoulos said.
“It was a home away from home,” she said.
Even on the tennis court, playing together over the years, the two were able to help each other.
“She was so annoying to play because she ran everything down and all the points were long and usually I hit ball and people don’t hit back,” Papavasilopoulos said.
“Yeah, and I hated playing her because she just smacks the ball,” Pugachevsky said.
The bond the two have shared since the time they first met has grown and has helped each of them manage some challenges in their life. But maybe the thing the two are most excited for is Pugachevsky’s wedding because both have decided that Papavasilopoulos will officiate it.
Dillan Schorfheide can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]