April 10, 2014
CHARLOTTESVILLE - Freshman Rachel Pierson (Galveston, Texas) has made an immediate impact in singles and doubles for No. 4 Virginia (15-4, 9-1 ACC). Pierson and Julia Elbaba (Oyster Bay, N.Y.) are ranked No. 9 in doubles. Pierson is No. 59 in singles with a 12-5 dual record, including a 7-0 mark at No. 4.
Pierson recently visited with VirginiaSports.com to talk tennis and her first year at UVa.
Q: What were your goals entering your first year of college?
Rachel Pierson: "I really wanted to be in the top 50 in singles and doubles, and I wanted to improve both my tennis game and my academics. I chose Virginia because I thought it would challenge me and I could thrive in both areas. I want to develop a bigger game and more weapons to take me to the next level."
Q: What is the strength of your game and what are you working on improving?
RP: "I have gotten a lot better with my backhand and have been relying on that a lot. I've been working on my serve and my forehand, getting each of those bigger so I can use them as weapons when I need to."
Q: The team has won six straight matches, how far can you go this spring?
RP: "Hopefully all the way. I know if everyone plays well and stays tough, we have a good chance to beat anyone on the court on any given day."
Q: How has the transition been switching from No. 3 to No. 4 singles?
RP: "It's been really nice, I like it. I had a bit of a rough patch at No. 3, but I really like listening to coach [Troy] Porco and having a different perspective has been really helpful. No. 3 and No. 4 are often switched back and forth, so they require pretty similar toughness, but the pressure is not there for me. That's been a nice transition to kind of take a step back and start really enjoying it again."
Q: How do you like your classes and the UVa community?
RP: "I love the classes at UVa. They are really intense, but everyone is very motivated. I'm considering foreign affairs major. Charlottesville is a lot of fun and very social. I like when I can to go out with my friends."
Q: Besides tennis, do you have any favorite activities?
RP: "I really like dancing. My brother likes dancing, so I picked it up from him. He does hip-hop and I like doing it, too. I was in a dance production once, but it took up a lot of time away from tennis."
Q: Did you play other sports growing up and when did you decide to focus solely on tennis?
RP: "I played softball, volleyball and a lot of soccer growing up. I wasn't competitive or crazy about tennis when I was younger. My dad was a Division III collegiate tennis coach, so I would be dropped off everyday after school at the courts and after being around the environment I started playing. It became a family activity and we all bonded around tennis. I became pretty competitive when I moved to Princeton, N.J. when I was 11. I started entering tournaments and training in Philadelphia. I took tennis to another notch my sophomore year of high school. I wanted to train harder, so I moved to Austin, Texas for two years. I attended a tennis academy and was able to train with some really good coaches, and I loved it."
Q: How has your dad influenced your game?
RP: My dad is the director of the Cherry Valley Tennis Club in Princeton and tennis pro. I picked tennis up from him and my mom picked up tennis, too. She is playing everyday when she can. It's been nice to have my dad as a tennis coach, but we can have some conflicts, when the line between dad and coach becomes a little blurry. I appreciate every opportunity that he has given me."