Millersville tennis huddles up before a match against the University of the District of Columbia. Photo courtesy of Millersville Athletics

Ben Staker
Associate Sports Editor

“We spend a lot of time all together, international and home players and we are enriching ourselves with the other cultures that we have,” said Lucia Consigliere, a Freshman from Spain on the women’s tennis team.

The Millersville men’s and women’s tennis teams have international student-athletes from all over the world. The countries represented between the teams include France, Ecuador, Netherlands, Switzerland, Brazil, Germany, Spain, and Malaysia. Despite all the cultural differences on the team, “having both US and international players has created a closer bond for sure” said Noelle Htwar, a Senior from Maryland on the women’s team. “This semester we are definitely a really close-knit team, which has been great,” she added.

The teams’ ability to accept their new international teammates has not gone unnoticed. “I was very welcomed by the university community,” said Victor Suarez, a Freshman from Brazil on the men’s tennis team. 

The players on the team from the United States strive to create a culture within the team that is accepting of everyone no matter where they come from. While the players from the United States help create an accepting culture within the team, “it’s also good for the international students to have each other as a support system”, said Noelle Htwar.

“Whether it’s at practice or matches or when we are together hanging out you always hear many languages like Spanish, Portuguese, French and German. Everybody does speak English though which enables us to come together and form those bonds with an open mind no matter where your teammates may be from” Zach Pernia, a Senior from Pennsylvania on the men’s tennis team added.

With a “tight-knit” team that has the diversity that Millersville does, comes with advantages on and off the tennis court. 

“Having players that have faced different challenges in life, in addition to having various playing styles and training backgrounds, gives our teams opportunities to better handle the numerous obstacles that arise during a season, and overcoming adversity is what college tennis is all about,” said men’s and women’s head tennis coach Matt Helsel.

While other colleges and universities are able to recruit international players like Coach Helsel does at Millersville, the team has still managed to achieve sustained success for their players individually and together as a team. 

Zach Pernia said “I think that bringing in talent from around the globe does definitely give us an advantage to put together as strong a team as possible. During practice and matches we show 100% support no matter who the teammate is. We all feel lucky to be able to be a part of such a diverse team and often will cheer/support our teammates in the language of their home country”. 

“I think definitely when you have guys coming from around the world the opportunity to play college tennis at a high level, we rally around each other for one goal that we all have in common” he added.

For international tennis players coming to the United States, there are a few big differences to the sport that they must adapt to. For Victor Suarez, the biggest difference for him in Brazil compared to the US is that “here we play a lot more matches and in Brazil we used to practice each stroke separately” he said.

For Lucia Consigliere, the biggest differences were that she was used to playing on clay courts, and “the type of tactic that people use here with the fast courts” she said. “In Spain usually, you use more the variations of shots, but here people tend to play shots and not varying a lot,” she added.

The obstacles that the international student-athletes must overcome to have success both on and off the court should not be taken lightly. Along with their teammates, they put in a lot of hard work to maintain their team and individual success.

Between the tennis teams’ ability to accept everyone for their differences in culture and play style, as well as the sustained success the team has been able to achieve creates an atmosphere that people from all across the world want to play in. These things alone should motivate Millersville students to support their classmates on the tennis teams.

“Come to a match!  I think tennis has a reputation for being a quiet, maybe even boring sport played by inferior athletes.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Our matches are fun and noisy, just like any other sport on campus.  Our players are amazing, highly skilled athletes combining quickness, finesse, strength, endurance, speed, and agility in addition to the strategy and mental toughness required to succeed at a high level.  I think students would be surprised how much fun tennis matches can be and how physically demanding our sport is.” said Coach Helsel on why students should support the tennis team.