Rebecca Pedrazzi discovered tennis at 5 because the volleyball teams filled up and she doesn’t swim. Her parents wanted her to play something while growing up in Italy.
The tennis team needed her.
“All the kids were playing volleyball,” she said. “So it was like, ‘OK, let’s try with tennis’ because it was the only one left. It was totally random.”
Wichita State women’s tennis coach Colin Foster is the beneficiary of that timing. Pedrazzi, a freshman from Modena, is 11-9 in singles matches, including 5-1 at No. 1 in Missouri Valley Conference matches. She teamed with Carla Venticinque to go 5-0 at No. 2 doubles in MVC play. The Shockers (12-10) are the top seed in the MVC championships, which begin Friday.
WSU won its fifth straight MVC title with two freshmen at the top of the lineup, Pedrazzi and Julia Schiller, who went 1-0 at No. 1 and 4-0 at No. 2 against MVC competition.
Pedrazzi started at No. 2 singles this spring and quickly moved to No. 1. Schiller, from Hoerbranz, Austria, didn’t come to WSU until January and mononucleosis kept her off the court until February. She started at No. 6 before moving up.
“These two freshmen are very aware of what they need to do to feel good about their games and get better,” Foster said. “We got good leadership from our upperclassmen, but also they are very responsible for themselves.”
Pedrazzi liked tennis from the start, although playing far away from home bothered her at times.
“I had some moments when I wanted to stop playing tennis,” she said. “But my mom had already paid the entire year, so she wouldn’t let me.”
Now she doesn’t want to miss a practice.
“If I don’t play tennis for more than two days, I miss it,” she said. “It’s a tough sport, really mentally, but I feel better after I play tennis. It’s just a good feeling.”
Pedrazzi misses Cloe, her labrador. Schiller misses her mother’s kasespatzle, Austria’s version of macaroni and cheese. While both say it is hard to be on a different continent from family and friends, they are happy to be playing tennis at WSU. They like the support from teammates a college team offers in an individual sport. In Europe, the opportunity to play tennis and get an education doesn’t exist.
“We are all a team and we care about that,” Schiller said.
The Shockers will be a heavy favorite this weekend. They won four of their seven MVC matches in straight sets, including over second-seeded Southern Illinois. Third-seeded Drake gave WSU its toughest test before losing 4-3.
“Playing at home is always nice,” Pedrazzi said. “People are coming to cheer for you and you feel more a part of the university.”
Shocker men seeded second — The WSU men will try to break top-seeded Drake’s two-year hold on the tournament title.
The Shockers (15-7) won five of its past six matches, with the lone loss to Drake 4-2.