Jan. 20, 2010
By Jeff Gentil
Most college coaches will tell you how difficult it is to recruit. It is even more difficult for the lower-budget sports to find quality student-athletes from outside their school's general area. So, when a Division I-caliber tennis player from Western Springs, Ill., basically falls into your lap, you count your blessings. That is exactly what happened to UC coach Angela Wilson with freshman Elise Woulfe. It also helps when player's father is very familiar with the area.
"My dad travels a lot in the Midwest and to Cincinnati. I had also played many tournaments in Cincinnati, so my dad has been here a lot and knew all the best restaurants," Woulfe said with a chuckle. "I had looked at some schools on the East coast but I knew I didn't want to go too far away and didn't want to be far from a metro area."
For Wilson, it was a perfect storm of good person, good student, good player, and a relatively easy sell to the university.
"It was a win-win for us," she said. "(Angela) has been a great addition; good student; works hard on the court and in weight training. She's appreciative of being here and very coachable. It's great to have connections to Cincinnati (like her father does). We use all parts of Cincinnati, not just the school, and we try to use the advantages of a city like Cincinnati versus a small college town. And even with the national exposure the football team has brought, it's great for all UC sports."
On the court, it would be difficult for any player to begin their college career better than Woulfe. In her first career tournament - the Bowling Green Invitational - Woulfe won the No. 5 singles flight going 3-0. She ended up 4-3 in singles matches in the fall, but Woulfe insists that record is not indicative of her play.
"After the first tournament, Coach Wilson put me in the No. 1 flight so I was facing girls who had been playing three years of college tennis already," Woulfe said. "But I gave them all a good run for their money. I got a chance to play against some great competition, but the scores didn't reflect my performance."
After taking nearly three months off from competition to hone their games, the girls begin the spring portion of their schedule as they play host to Bowling Green at the Western Tennis & Fitness Club this weekend. It will be the first chance to see if the changes made to Woulfe's game over the winter break have made a difference.
"She has continued to improve," Wilson said. "We're trying to transition her from a defensive to offensive game. I think she has embraced it. She works very hard."
"I've always been the 'girl on the run,' " Woulfe said in reference to being a defensive player. "But I think I've had some really good quality practices these last three weeks. (In addition) I've had a chance to work on my serve. It has always been one of my strengths."
For a lot of freshmen athletes, the adjustment - especially in the first quarter- can be rough. It can certainly take a toll mentally. But Woulfe insists she wasn't affected much.
"I know there isn't a physical gap for me," she said. "I've worked hard on my strength and endurance. It might be a little mental, but I've been playing up (in age groups) since I was 14, so I was prepared to play college tennis."
In the event there is a need for guidance and support, Woulfe knows she is in good hands with her teammates and coaches.
"We definitely all push each other," she said. "And I know Coach Wilson has a very good background in the game. She really didn't have to do much convincing for me to come to UC. I am going to love having the kind of relationship I have with her the next four years."