Kollarova rules court
It's a fact of life that accidents happen, and for AU Tennis star Katarina Kollarova, she's most thankful that she "accidentally" picked up a tennis racket and began what is quickly becoming one of the most dominant tennis careers in the Patriot League.
When Kollarova was an 8-year-old in Slovakia, she was inspired to join a tennis clinic without any prior experience.
"It's a total accident that I began playing tennis," AU's No. 1 player said. "No one in my family played, and I didn't start until I was eight."
Her proficiency in tennis has taken her worldwide. During her senior year of high school, she took part in an exchange program that brought her to Chicago. During that year she was recruited and decided to further her career in the United States.
"I was just planning to stay for the year and then go home [to Slovakia]," Kollarova remembered, "but then I got recruited and was able to continue my career here."
That opportunity came at Valparaiso University in Indiana. She starred there for two years and was named Mid-Continent Conference Player of the Year twice before transferring to AU.
Kollarova cites AU's diversity and the opportunity to experience a different region of the country as the major reasons for her transfer.
"I didn't want to just stay in one part of the country," Kollarova said.
Since arriving at AU last year, she almost single-handedly transformed the program. Her 18-7 singles record last year has firmly secured her as the No. 1 player at AU, and maybe in all the PL.
Last year, she was named PL Scholar Athlete of the Year.
"That was nice because it shows that my accomplishments have been noticed," said Kollarova.
In her quest to repeat the feat this year, she started off strong this past weekend at the Martha Thorn Invitational in Morgantown, W.Va. She breezed through the opening rounds of the tournament, easily making it to the finals.
Kollarova's success has her excited about the upcoming spring season: "[The success in West Virginia] gives me some great confidence for the year."
While Kollarova may have been dominant this past weekend, some of her teammates did not enjoy the same proficiency. The team leader isn't worried, though.
"It was the first tournament," Kollarova said. "It's only a warm-up."
If she sounds excited about this year's team, she is. Last year she was one of only six members, while this year's squad features 14, including the gifted freshman class of Julia Collarusso, Tessa Hollyn Taub, Brynne Ward, Rachael Honig and Kollarova's doubles partner, Kirsten Wegel.
"The freshmen are talented and willing to work," Kollarova said. "I'm hoping to help them in any way I can."
If the Eagles are to soar this year, Kollarova is the cog that will drive this engine. And expectations are high. The Men's Tennis team won the PL last year, and the women plan to take tennis success one step further.
"We'd like to raise the bar and maybe win a round or two in the NCAA's," Kollarova said excitedly.
However, her time at AU is running out. She realizes that this year is her last chance and as she said so profoundly, "I haven't been to the NCAA's. I want to lead this team to the tournament."
While the team is setting its goals high, Kollarova has some personal goals of her own. When asked what she wants to accomplish this year, she simply said to "win one more match than last year."
One more match could be the difference between a championship and the end of a sparkling college career. While her college career may end, Kollarova has no plans of hanging up the tennis shoes. She has amassed quite a r?sum? here at AU and hopes it will help her in the future.
That r?sum? is a piece of paper that never should have existed. Growing up in Slovakia, Katarina Kollarova had no idea that she'd end up playing college tennis in D.C. Then an accident happened, and everyone at AU is glad that it did.