Some of Sweden’s most important exports are machinery, paper products and Saabs; but the Scandinavian country’s greatest gift to the Charlotte 49ers athletic department in recent years has been women’s tennis players.
Both the women’s and men’s tennis teams on campus have been a melting pot of American and foreign-born players in recent years. Sweden especially has contributed to the female 49ers, sending four players here since 2009.
Freshman Victoria Pahlett and junior Lisa Grosselius are the current Swedes on the roster. They are the top two singles players – Pahlett at No. 1 and Grosselius No. 2 – and have played as doubles partners in three matches.
Charlotte saw two Swedish seniors graduate last year. Alexandra Zinn and Anna Ekelund were both top-six players for the 49ers and doubles partners for two years. Both have returned to Sweden to attend graduate school.
Charlotte women’s coach Michaela Gorman said the 49ers’ influx of Swedes has been “kind of random.” She had not coached a Swedish player before Zinn emailed her as a high school student in 2009.
After Gorman showed an interest in Zinn, she asked Zinn’s high school coach if there were any other quality players who might be interested in playing overseas. The next thing she knew, Gorman had received an email from Ekelund.
Though they were from different towns, Zinn and Ekelund both attended Procivitas High School, the same institution that produced Pahlett. Two years after Zinn and Ekelund committed to Charlotte, Grosselius joined the Swedish migration.
By the time Grosselius got to campus, she had the advantage of having a couple fellow Swedes on the team. Zinn and Ekelund, roommates at Charlotte for four years, helped their new teammate get acclimated to the team and the U.S.
“The biggest challenge for me was the intensity, both at practices and as a student,” said Grosselius. “After being a student-athlete at UNCC for three years, I have developed great time-management skills.
“The other players from Sweden definitely helped me to adapt to the lifestyle at UNCC. They took me under their wings and they had already paved the way for me as an incoming freshman.”
Pahlett also took comfort in knowing she would have a Swedish teammate at Charlotte. In addition to feeling comfortable with the coaches, one of the reasons she chose Charlotte was that it was a big city on the East Coast – that much closer to home.
The Swedish players have made a couple of minor adjustments to how they approach tennis in the U.S.
Most importantly, they have had to adjust to playing “team” tennis, a concept not often practiced in Europe where individual play is emphasized.
“Tennis in Sweden is more focused on technique rather than figuring out ways to win matches,” Grosselius said.
“I try not to look at it from the perspective that they are international players,” said Gorman. “The only difference for me is they are farther from home.
“College tennis is so international. It’s just the way it is right now.”
The men’s tennis team and men’s golf team at Charlotte have both had Swedish players in the last decade.
Track and field
A couple school records fell at last weekend’s Florida Relays.
Kevin Calhoun, who also holds Charlotte’s indoor pole-vault mark, set the outdoor pole-vault record with a jump of 16 feet, 2.75 inches. Anthony Bynum, Christopher Gorman, Brian Hamilton and Chris Tate ran the 4x400-meter relay in 3 minutes, 9.17 seconds to set a school record.
At the Colonial Relays in Williamsburg, Va., Kristen Stout won the 5,000 meters with a time of 17:50.
The men’s golf team tied for third at last weekend’s Irish Creek Intercollegiate, Charlotte’s best finish in any tournament this season. Wake Forest shared third place with the 49ers.
Sophomore Thomas Rowland was Charlotte’s top finisher, firing a three-round total of 3-under-par 210 to finish fourth. Rowland started the tournament’s final day tied for first.
Senior Franco Castro tied for 12th place with a 216. He started the final day tied for 22nd.