On the court, with a racket in hand; that is Krista Cerpina’s comfort zone.
It’s the sport that helped the freshman tennis player from Riga, Latvia make her way across the Atlantic Ocean to Seton Hall. It’s also a sport that has ironically taken her out of her comfort zone, adjusting to what is in many ways a different sport altogether in the NCAA’s team-oriented style of tennis competition.
In the professional ranks of tennis, a player always has a direct impact on the outcome. Even in a doubles match, where a person is reliant on the performance of a partner, he or she is still first to the action. College tennis however, is quite different. The concept of a team in tennis is something admittedly new to Cerpina.
“I mean, it’s not easy to transition, to go from an individual sport to a team sport…while doing the same sport,” Cerpina said. Luckily for Cerpina, she isn’t the first foreign player to have to make the adjustment to the college game. She isn’t even the first tennis player from Riga, Latvia to walk through the Richie Regan Athletic Center doors.
Junior Luize Strike had to make the same transition two years ago, and recognized the challenge of going from an individual mindset to a team mindset after playing for so long with the former.
“I usually played tennis individually, and I used to go to tournaments with my coach, and that was it. I used to play for myself, but being on a team is something else. It’s something different where you have to play for the other person too,” Strike said.
Cerpina is grateful for her fellow Latvian teammate, if nothing else, to keep her from getting homesick every once in awhile. The freshman jokingly admitted how “it’s nice to have Luize here because I can always talk Latvian if I start missing home.”
On a more serious note, Cerpina is embracing the novelty that is college tennis, and said that the experience has so far been “a lot of fun.” She added that “getting to know everyone, and playing for the school and the team is a lot of exciting stuff.”
Cerpina is just breaking her way into contention for meaningful minutes. She combined with fellow freshman Anniek Jansen to help secure a doubles match win against NJIT this past Friday, Feb. 17. The win was her first recorded doubles win, and second overall win in a Pirates uniform.
Strike on the other hand, is very much cemented in her role as one of the leading contributors on the team. And since the 2016-17 incarnation of the Pirates does not feature any seniors, Strike’s role as one of only two juniors takes heightened importance, especially with a total of four incoming freshman, and a new head coach.
“It’s a challenge. We’re putting in much more work and we’re doing much more stuff to get us better. Our mindset has changed intensely, and everyone on the team wants to work for the better results, everyone wants to see how we’ll do this year,” Strike said.
Strike projects this season as being one where the Pirates may not make the big statements, but one in which they will lay the foundation for future success.
“I think we as a team have been growing more, and I think we’re already doing better than we’ve ever been. So I think we’re on the right track, to put the program to the very next level,” Strike said.
James Justice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JamesJusticeIII.