By: Vince Menon
Bronco rising sophomore Katie Le (KL) finished her freshman year with a bang, where she went 20-3 at No. 1 singles and 17-4 at No. 1 doubles en route to WCC Freshman of the Year honors. She also received Second Team All-WCC Singles honors and Second Team All-WCC Doubles honors. Recently www.SantaClaraBroncos.com (SCB) caught up with Le about what she's looking to improve, the differences between singles and doubles and the transition to collegiate tennis.
SCB: How are you keeping up your game in the offseason? Are you playing in tournaments? How often are you practicing?
KL: I've been practicing nearly every day during the summer and making a few trips to the gym on the days I don't hit. I'm also playing a few tournaments here and there to get some matches in.
SCB: After receiving WCC Freshman of the Year and Second Team All-WCC honors, how do you plan to keep improving your game? What are you focusing on most?
KL: I still have a lot of small technical things to improve on and I've been working with our [Head] Coach, Ben Cabell, on multiple aspects of my game. I am trying to work on my volleys and serve the most.
SCB: During the season the team reached its highest national ranking in program history, No. 57, before finishing at No. 68. With the entire team set to return, what are you hoping to achieve next season?
KL: Our entire team is hoping to play the NCAAs and end the next year in the top 50.
SCB: You had a 20-3 record at the No. 1 singles position as well as a 17-4 record at No. 1 doubles. What is the key to being successful in both singles and doubles? What type of adjustments do you make and how does your approach change as a double player? If you had to pick one, would you choose singles or doubles?
KL: Singles and doubles are two very different games. Doubles is very quick, aggressive, and it requires a bit more strategy. In singles, your attitude only affects yourself. In doubles, however, your attitude matters much more because you have a partner that can easily be brought up or down by the way you carry yourself on court. I always go into doubles knowing that I have to pump up my partner and keep my composure even if things aren't going well. Although it is more fun with a partner by your side, I still enjoy singles better. I love the one-on-one competition and knowing that it's just me and my opponent.
SCB: In singles, you reeled off a 14 match win streak from January 23 to March 13. What allowed you to keep your game at such a high level for an extended period of time? How important is preparation to on-court success? How do you prepare for competition?
KL: I didn't really focus on my winning streak before going out to play because I didn't want to put that pressure on myself. I just went out to every match and told myself that the amount I practiced and how hard I trained would show up on court. We prepared for our games with practice after class almost every day and conditioning/weights after. I could never have won as many matches as I did without playing sets and points during practice.
SCB: How was the shift from high school and junior tournament play to collegiate tennis? Was it a smooth transition or was there an adjustment period? How were your coaches and teammates able to help you become acclimated and comfortable?
KL: Junior tournaments and college tennis are very different. In junior tennis, every match you play is individual. You don't have teammates screaming and cheering you on, and the atmosphere is nowhere near as intense. You never have a situation where the team score is tied 3-3 and whether or not you win the game is based on your match. Now, your match affects not just yourself but your team also. It wasn't that difficult of a transition because college tennis is so much fun and your older teammates and coaches show you the ropes and are really supportive.
SCB: If you had to play a sport other than tennis, what sport would you choose and why?
KL: I've tried quite a few other sports, and I'm sad to admit that I'm awful at pretty much everything else. But if I had to choose a sport, it would have to be soccer because I could never seem to run and kick the ball successfully at the same time. It would be awesome if I was ever good at it! Also, I always wondered what it would be like to be on a large sports team. Tennis teams don't usually consist of more than 10-12 girls and soccer teams have a lot more.