c/o Kristina Yu

c/o Kristina Yu

In Play(er) of the Week, we seek to highlight outstanding Wesleyan athletes or segments of games that deserve extra attention. Kristina Yu ’22 MA ’23 recently hit an impressive and rare career benchmark in Wesleyan women’s tennis. On Sunday, April 2, Yu recorded her 100th career win at Wes. The only other Cardinals with 100 recorded wins are Eudice Chong ’18 and Yu’s sister Victoria Yu ’19. Yu has led the team to an impressive 13–1 record, and with only one match left in the regular season, the Cards are looking to make a deep run in the NCAA Division III tournament.

The Argus: Can you introduce yourself?

Kristina Yu: I’m Kristina Yu, and I’m a master’s student in biology.

A: How did you first start playing tennis?

KU: I actually followed in the footsteps of my sister. I started playing when I was about eight, but both my older brother and sister played before me. And so I sort of just followed them. [Victoria] came to Wes and played tennis, and then I followed her here—not on purpose. My parents didn’t play, but we just sort of found tennis. 

A: What do you love most about the sport, and what made you know that this was something you wanted to keep doing in college?

KU: I really like how you can figure things out as you’re playing. This is a silly thing, but there’s not a time limit to a tennis match, [while] a lot of other sports are on a clock. So you can figure things out, and if you’re losing, you still have a chance to come back. I find strategizing—about point construction, where to hit the ball, and how your opponent is handling the ball that [you’re] hitting—to be a fun thing. College tennis is really different from junior tennis. But to me, college tennis is a lot more fun, because you’re playing on a team, whereas [with] the juniors, it was just you out there for yourself. 

A: Tennis is either an individual or double sport, so you’re only out there alone, or with one other person. But how does the team stay together despite that? How do you guys stay supportive of each other? 

KU: Three doubles matches go out at the same time, and then once everyone finishes, six singles matches go out at the same time. So even though you’re on a court by yourself or with your partner, there’s still a flow across three or six courts. We’ve cultivated a culture where there’s this call-and-response-type thing. So if someone yells, “Let’s go, Wes!” then at least one person will respond, and it just flows throughout the courts. One thing that makes our team really special is that we do [the call-and-response] for the whole match. Even though you are out there by yourself, you’re not really by yourself, because everyone’s trying to do the same thing and win for the team.

A: Recently—congratulations—you had your 100th career win against Colby. How did it feel to attain that mark after years of competing?

KU: Obviously, it felt really good to be following the footsteps of my sister, but also Eudice. Just to be in the company of them, [to be] on the same list of accomplishments, felt good. And I felt proud of doing that. 

A: As you mentioned, Eudice, your sister, and yourself are the three who have attained that mark. How has [Victoria’s] success and her drive motivated you to be better over the years?

KU: When I got here, we had one year of overlap, so we got to play doubles together. That was the year we won the National Championship. She was, at the time, the only senior, and also the captain, so she set the tone for the team. She’s a really hard worker, and the transition [from junior tennis to college tennis] is quite different, so she gave me a lot of good habits. My class looked up to her. When she graduated, we continued this team culture that started with Eudice.

A: Do you have any tips or factors that you think have helped you to consistently be able to go out there and compete?

KU: Honestly, just enjoy the moment and what you’re given at the time. Because this is my fifth year, but I had a couple of years taken away because of COVID, and it just flies by. It’s my last season, but it’s almost over now, so I’m just grateful to have been here for so long.

A: Now to switch to the team. Obviously, you have an amazing culture. But what particularly about this team would you attribute the success to this year?

KU: We’re doing a really good job of being a cohesive unit, both on and off the court. So we’ll do a lot of things as a team. Off the court, after practice, we will go to dinners. At least for me, it’s [about] creating a personal connection with each person on the team, and each person having their own separate relationship with everyone else. Then, when we all come together, it’s just that much stronger. Everyone on the team right now is willing to put in the work because we all want the same thing. 

A: Going forward, what gives you confidence that you’ll be able to make a deep tournament run this year and perform under pressure?

KU: Everyone is cohesive and willing to work hard. When we played Middlebury recently, we lost, but it came down to one match: a tiebreaker in the third set. We were all screaming on the sidelines, engaged, wanting our teammate to win, even though it was just one match. And then, when we lost, it didn’t even feel like we lost. We were proud of the way she was playing, not necessarily only the result. But I think it’s just feeling that your teammate is supporting you, no matter what. We trust each other to put in the work. 

A: As you said, this is your last year, and you’ll have your final regular season match on Saturday. What will you miss about Wesleyan tennis and being a Wesleyan student? 

KU: I think it’s the people and being in such close proximity to everyone, because Wesleyan is a small campus. If I want to hang out with someone, I’ll just text them and [we’ll] go get coffee or something. It’s that, and the relationships that I’ve built here. I don’t know what I’ll do after I graduate—everyone sort of disperses. I’ll definitely miss seeing them every day.

If you would like to nominate a Play(er) of the Week, please reach out to ebyerly@wesleyan.edu with either the athlete’s name and one sentence about why they deserve to be nominated, or the team, date of the game, players involved, and the segment that you would like to highlight.

Ethan Lee can be reached at ejlee@wesleyan.edu

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