It is difficult to imagine having a better first year of college sports than Eudice Chong ’18 did. The tennis player’s historic season came to a fitting close on May 23 in Mason, OH, when she captured Wesleyan’s first-ever NCAA Division III Women’s Singles title in a thrilling three-set contest.
Chong appeared just as dominant at the NCAA tournament as she had all season long, dropping just one set in all five matches and extending her season win streak to a perfect 22-0. She also put forth a strong effort in the doubles draw, reaching the tournament quarterfinals alongside teammate Helen Klass-Warch ’18, which earned the pair All-American honors.
Yet her summer of tennis was far from over. In early July, Chong traveled to South Korea to represent her home territory of Hong Kong in the World University Games where she played doubles and mixed doubles. With the fall season approaching fast, The Argus corresponded with Chong over email to discuss her victory at NCAA championships and her goals for the coming year.
The Argus: After having represented Hong Kong on multiple occasions, most notably at the 2014 Asian Games, you’re no stranger to competing on a big stage. How did the NCAAs compare to that experience? Did you feel any added pressure going into the tournament knowing that you were representing Wesleyan in addition to yourself and your teammates?
Eudice Chong: The NCAAs is a very prestigious event, similar to the Asian Games in that only the best players get to represent their country or school. Playing the NCAAs was definitely a tougher experience for me. I had to play three matches a day, and staying focused for all three matches was pretty hard. I tried to stay relaxed and tried not to think about the next matches. Instead of feeling pressured to represent Wesleyan, I think it actually gave me a bigger motivation to do even better.
A: You faced Bowdoin’s Joulia Likhanskaia on two occasions over the course of the season before meeting her once again in the championship match. Though you defeated her 6-0, 6-1 at NESCACs, Likhanskaia remained the only player to have taken a set off all season. What was your game plan going into that match?
EC: I felt great playing Joulia at NESCACs, and everything seemed to just come together that day. Going into the finals, I just wanted to stay aggressive and keep my feet very active, hopefully being able to deliver the way I did when I played against her the previous time.
A: After taking the first set of the title match 6-4, you lost the second set 4-6 and faced a decisive third set for only the second time all season. What was your mentality going into that final set? Did Coach Fried stress anything in particular going into the set?
EC: After winning the first set, I got too anxious and tried to finish points too quickly. I knew I had to stay patient in order to set up the points the way I wanted, and I tried to tell myself to stay on top of the ball, even though I was getting quite exhausted by then. Coach Fried had a lot of confidence in me, and he knew that as long as I stayed focused, I could play my best tennis. He tried to find ways to help me shake off my nerves and slow down my breathing so I could focus on every single point.
A: The final set of the title match was very tight. After trading breaks early on in the set, you managed to break again at 5-5 and then hold to take the set 7-5. What was your immediate reaction following the final point? Did it hit you right away that you were NCAA champion or did it take a while to sink in?
EC: I was already pretty hyped up by the time match point came, and the adrenaline was just rushing through me. As soon as I won that last point, my coaches and teammates immediately jumped to their feet, screaming and cheering in excitement. It was then that I realized what I had accomplished for myself, my coaches, and especially my school.
A: In addition to competing in the singles draw, you also reached the quarterfinals in the doubles draw alongside teammate and fellow All-American Helen Klass-Warch. What was that experience like?
EC: Competing in doubles at NCAAs was slightly different, playing full, three-set matches instead of eight game pro-sets like we usually do. I played with Helen throughout most of the season, so we knew what we had to do to bring out our best. We got the chance to play opponents from outside of the NESCAC schools, so it was actually nice to play people we didn’t really know or people we hadn’t played before.
A: In your first year playing collegiate tennis, you posted a 22-0 dual match record, earned All-NESCAC and All-American honors, and became Wesleyan’s first ever NCAA Division III tennis champion. How do you stay motivated moving forward? Do you have other tennis-related goals you still hope to accomplish while at Wes?
EC: Personally, I just want to keep working to improve my tennis, especially my fitness. Tennis is so much of a physical sport that strength and conditioning become such a huge part of being a successful tennis player. My biggest motivation is definitely from my teammates. Every single one of them is so hardworking that I can’t afford to slack off. My next goal, or should I say OUR next goal, is definitely to win NCAAs as a team! This has also never been accomplished before, and I hope we can make history!