Now that she’s had a year to adjust to college tennis, Jessica Perez said she feels she is a completely different player than two years ago, coming from Myers Park High School.
As a sophomore at UNC Charlotte this season, Perez worked her way into the 49ers singles lineup by learning the nuances of the college game from last year’s experienced seniors.
Most important, she learned that college tennis requires more of a mental approach than high school tennis.
Five dual matches into the 2014 season, Perez is showing progress. In dual-match singles play, Perez has a 1-1 record at No. 5 singles and is 0-3 at No. 6.
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In those same dual matches, Perez and doubles partner Natsuko Takayanagi are 1-1 in the second flight.
When Perez plays with Macy Vonderschmidt at No. 3, the pair is 1-2.
In the 2013 spring season, Perez played singles in just three dual matches, earning a perfect record. As a doubles player, Perez posted a 10-6 mark in dual matches and added three wins and five losses in fall tournament play.
“In high school, I used to love singles more,” said Perez, who made the Chancellor’s List both freshman semesters. “Last year I really learned to love doubles.
“I played with our No. 1, Alexandra Zinn, and she took me under her wing. She taught me how to stay composed and how to think through a point in doubles. As a senior, she taught us a lot about team dynamics and how to be successful as a student-athlete.”
Coming out of Myers Park, Perez wasn’t even sure she wanted to play college tennis. She considered attending N.C. State before accepting an offer to play at Charlotte.
“My decision to stay in Charlotte was pretty easy, because it’s a top DI university and I love the diversity the school has to offer,” she said. “It’s a privilege to play in my city.”
Perez said she was disappointed she didn’t play more singles matches last year but appreciated the opportunity to learn. Realizing that five seniors were graduating from last year’s team, Perez knew she had a good chance to crack the starting lineup this year.
Perez showed she meant business when she came into the fall season in better shape than the previous spring. She played seven singles and nine doubles matches over various tournaments.
After semester break, it was obvious Perez had rededicated herself to fitness and training. Yoga and running helped her prepare for the spring campaign.
Describing Perez as “extremely hard-working, coachable, hungry to learn and hungry to compete,” Charlotte coach Michaela Gorman said she is happy Perez is part of the 49ers’ youth movement this year.
“She can put into play what me and (assistant coach) Jesse (Tarr) would like for her to do,” said Gorman, who is in her 11th season. “She immediately starts to construct a point, to put it into action.”
The Charlotte team is comprised of one senior, two juniors, two sophomores and three freshmen. The eight players represent four countries, including the United States.
Perez says her family originally is from Puerto Rico. She speaks fluent Spanish and is interested in living in Spain and applying her international business degree after she graduates.
• Charlotte’s men’s golf team finished eighth at the Bayou City Collegiate Championship in Houston recently. Senior Franco Castro led the 49ers, tying for 15th individually with a three-round total of 213, 3-under par.
• The men’s tennis team improved to 5-1 with a victory against South Carolina State on Feb.
23. Including tournament play, Forrest Edwards has a 17-4 record at No. 1 singles.
• Through four games, redshirt sophomore Brett Lang (Ardrey Kell High) leads Charlotte’s baseball team with a .375 batting average. Freshman Zach Jarrett is hitting .368 and junior Mikal Hill (Mallard Creek) is at .364.
Redshirt junior Ryan Butler (Ardrey Kell) didn’t allow a run in six innings in his first start of the season. Senior Brock Hudgens has allowed just one run in nine innings over two starts.