Freshman tennis player Petra Melounova has made a large impact in her first year as a Wahine. Named Freshman and Player of the Year for the Big West Conference, she will now compete in the NCAA tournament.
“It’s absolutely an honor for our program and for her and for me as her coach,” women’s tennis head coach Jun Hernandez said. “Especially as a freshman, Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year and going to the NCAAs. It’s hard to get in no matter what year you are, in any sport, to get into the NCAAs. Let alone having a freshman.”
Melounova finished the regular season ranked at No. 64, the highest in the Big West Conference, and earned an automatic bid to compete in the NCAA singles tournament. She is one of 12 automatic bids who will compete against 52 at large bids.
“I’m very excited and I feel very honored for this chance I’ve been given,” Melounova said. “I’m a little worried that I’m the only player from conference going there. I know it will be tough but I’m just going to go there and play my best. Hopefully, I’ll get good results.”
Melounova is the second Wahine in program history to compete in the NCAA singles tournament – senior Cindy Nguyen qualified in 2014 and 2015. Both were under the guidance of Hernandez as head coach.
“It’s usually the player,” Hernandez said. “To have a good player, they make me look good. They trust me as a coach and they trust our system, that it works. Petra is very coachable, she’s one of the most coachable players on the team. It’s nice to see the progress. I’ve been around tennis for a long time and I’ve learned a lot from a lot of people. It’s nice to put that together and help a player like her.”
Sharing time with Nguyen playing on the singles first and second courts, Melounova had a 13-1 season and an undefeated 5-0 Big West Conference record. She also helped lead the Wahine to an 8-0 conference record and their first Big West regular season title.
“I feel like it’s all more of a privilege,” Melounova said. “Especially after being awarded both Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year and I know there are very good players in the Big West. I was surprised even though I knew I was the highest ranked player in our conference. I feel the pressure a bit but I’m trying to be positive about it. I’m happy to represent my school and the whole conference.”
Despite winning the Big West regular season title, the Wahine fell short in the post-season competition for the title – something Melounova sees as an opportunity for a comeback.
“Our program has done very well this year,” Melounova said. “We came up a bit short in the Big West Conference finals, so maybe this is my small chance to make things up. I know it’s a team effort. I hit with my teammates everyday, especially with my coaches. I try to represent them and do my best.”
Having played tennis since she was five in the Czech Republic, Melounova is no novice. However, big competitions like this one still intimidate her.
“I know I will be very nervous, I’m very nervous usually about things, but people keep telling me I should try to just enjoy it,” Melounova said. “It’s a privilege and I have to do my best, but also have fun because not many players get this opportunity.”
With all of this under her belt in her first year as a player for the Wahine, coach Hernandez has even bigger dreams for what Melounova can help the Wahine accomplish.
“We have to go back to the drawing board and make some more challenging goals for her,” Hernandez said. “Our big goal is to win the Big West Conference Title, regular season and post-season as well. That’s always the big goal for the program. Hopefully we make it more consistent to go to the NCAAs, not just individually, but with the team as well. Those are the things she helps us accomplish.”
The 2017 NCAA Division 1 Singles Championship will be held in Athens, GA in the Dan Magill Tennis Complex from May 24-29.