Match Point: Stephanie Wagner
By Amanda Phillips
CORAL GABLES, Fla.-Tennis is as much a mental game as it is a physical one.
The mental side can be difficult to control under certain situations. But Stephanie Wagner, a freshman on the University of Miami women's tennis team, has done a pretty good job figuring it all out.
"Before I go into a match, I tell myself that whatever the situation is like, I just have to try and stay calm and try to stay positive," Wagner said. "Right now, I think everything is working out really well."
A native of Amberg, Germany, Wagner is a long way from home. But she knew that Miami was going to make her the player she wanted to be.
"It's a really tough program and a lot of work," Wagner said. "I thought to myself that I'm really going to improve here. That's why I came."
In just her second semester at Miami, the 18-year-old has become an asset to the team. Wagner's résumé includes wins against the No. 44 player in the country, Beatrice Gumulya from Clemson. She has also defeated Brittany Wowchuk of then-No. 14 Northwestern, and Maggie Lehmicke of then-No. 17 Nebraska.
With all of Wagner's early success, Miami women's tennis head coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews looks forward to having the freshman for four years.
"She's a warrior," Yaroshuk-Tews said after Wagner's singles win against Clemson on March 9. "She's so stubborn, but she brings that stubbornness to the tennis court, that fight. She has that refuse-to-lose mentality."
When on the court, Wagner tries to focus on thinking about her game and what she can do to win.
"When I play, I'm just focused to play my game, to play aggressive and to step on the court and play winners," Wagner said. "I don't really think about rankings in the match."
The University of Miami was the only school that Wagner looked at, but she felt that Yaroshuk-Tews was really the reason she came.
"I really see that the program is really important to her," Wagner said. "She puts in so much work and so much energy and effort into the team."
In the end, the young tennis player knows that Yaroshuk-Tews will only make her better.
"I want a coach who is really into it and who motivates us, but who can also tell us what we're doing wrong," Wagner said. "That's how we improve. I think Coach Yaroshuk-Tews does that for us."