March 5, 2014
Sophomore Maci Epstein (Winter Park, Fla.) is celebrating her return to the UVa lineup in 2013-14 by posting a 6-3 dual singles mark and 6-2 dual doubles marks with sophomore Stephanie Nauta (Galveston, Texas). Virginia (8-2) is currently No. 5 in the latest ITA rankings after reaching a program-high No. 3 mark last week.
Epstein, who fractured her ankle and missed most of the 2014 spring season, recently sat down with VirginiaSports.com to talk about her injury and sophomore season at Virginia.
Q: How tough was it last year to suffer your injury and miss the majority of the dual season?
Maci Epstein: "I broke my ankle in March last year and it was really tough to see my teammates playing without me. I was so excited to play with them all year and to be unable to help the team was difficult. Obviously, I was there for them and was cheering for them, but it was difficult to be watching on the sidelines and be unable to play. I worked really hard this summer and fall, and now I feel close to 100 percent."
Q: How does it feel to finally be back in the singles and doubles lineup?
ME: "I want it a lot more. I wanted it last year, so it's been fueling me to compete my hardest and help the team."
Q: Can you talk about playing doubles with Stephanie Nauta?
ME: "Stephanie is my best friend and we have always wanted to play together. It has been good so far. So, I'm very excited to be playing doubles with her this season."
Q: What are your strengths and goals as a doubles team?
ME: "It's interesting because we are so close as friends and we know each others' games very well. We are starting to figure out exactly what we can do together. We're pretty tough when I'm serving and she is at net. We're starting to sense when each other moves on the court and when to charge the net together. It's pretty cool to have that connection and awareness, and not have to say anything."
Q: What are your individual expectations and goals this spring?
ME: "I want to win my match, help the team and get my point on the board. Hopefully, I can help my teammates and the team spirit while we are competing, on and off the court."
Q: How about team goals? How far can this team go?
ME: "Our first team goal was to get to the top 5 in the rankings, which we have just accomplished reaching No. 3 last week. Everyone's excited about that. So, I guess it's time to make a new goal, maybe No. 1."
Q: What has been the biggest adjustment to collegiate tennis from the junior level?
ME: "Collegiate tennis adds pressure but also adds support. There is a huge support system going into a team match. Your coach is on the sideline, compared to the junior level where your coach cannot talk to you at all. It helps me focus and know exactly what I want to do. I've improved my game since I've entered college on so many levels. Especially on the mental level - I have been able to focus a lot more this season and really get it done the last couple of matches."
Q: Your family still lives in Florida, how have they been able to support you?
ME: "My Mom has been up here a few times and with the new on-court cameras that live stream the home matches they can watch from Florida. My grandparents love the cameras and they always tell me to wave to them."
Q: What has been your favorite class and/or professor so far at UVa?
ME: "My favorite professor has been Bob Swab, he's an environmental science and research professor. I took a J-Term class this year with him to come back early and train, but the class ended up being an all-day commitment, which was initially frustrating, but it turned out to be one of the best classes I've taken at UVa. I got close with everybody in the class and it was a great experience."
Q: Outside of tennis, what do you like to do and how do you spend your free time?
ME: "I like to see other UVa sports teams compete. I have a lot of friends on other teams and they come here to see me play so I like to go and support them too."
Q: Do you and the team have any superstitions or pre-match rituals? ME: "We are usually jamming pre-game music in the locker room. That's pretty much about it."