For any college team, recruiting young talent is a pivotal factor for building the foundation of a team that can compete for championships year in and year out. After a noteworthy 16-9 season in 2019, followed by a skilled recruitment class, the sky is the limit for head coach Matt Meredith’s squad.
Perhaps one of the most talented recruits in recent memory includes freshman Pia Bruckmayer. The talented newcomer was born 4,300 miles away from the small town of Slippery Rock- in Altotting, Germany to be exact.
Located just under an hour and a half from Munich, Bruckmayer has taken many interests in life, namely athletics. Track and field, skiing and badminton are all ways that Slippery Rock tennis’ newest recruit enjoys staying active, but she credited her parents for introducing her to one of her biggest passions in life: tennis.
“My dad played tennis with my mom, so I started playing. I’ve been playing tennis since I was probably eight years old,” Bruckmayer said.
Currently boasting an 11-2 singles record and 6-2 doubles record at Slippery Rock, the talented freshman admitted that the sport didn’t always come naturally to her. The skill that she currently possesses is something that has been ten years in the making.
“I was so bad in the beginning, but then I tried more and more, because I wanted to keep playing tennis,” Bruckmayer said. “I just kept getting better and better.”
Mastering anything in life requires countless hours of hard work, attention to detail and consistency. After pairing that with a no-quit mentality, the up and coming athlete soon turned taking two steps back into two steps forward.
Year by year, her talent began to show more and more, collecting awards and trophies in track and field as well as tennis. One of her biggest accomplishments in her athletic career came at the age of 14, when Bruckmayer became the youngest women’s district (Altotting and Mühldorf) champion in tennis in front of a crowd of roughly 1,000 people.
Experiencing a massive amount of success at a young age can be hard to navigate, but Bruckmayer credits her coach from home for keeping her motivated to improve.
“I’ve always liked my coach from back home and I’ve known him since around the time I started playing tennis and he is like a dad to me; I could talk to him about anything,” Bruckmayer said.
With a solid cast of support coming from her parents and coach, Bruckmayer was able to fully entrench herself with the ins and outs of the game. When she was not playing tennis or running track, the German native spent time watching professional tennis player, Stan Wawrinka, picking parts from his game and applying it to her own.
“Stan Wawrinka is one of the oldest players on the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) Tour, he’s just a kind person and tries very hard,” Bruckmayer said.
Wawrinka is an extremely accomplished tennis player who was ranked as high as No. 3 in singles play in 2014. His accolades include 16 titles, winning the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title at the Monte-Carlo Masters in 2014 and he won a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics with Roger Federer. He also won the 2014 Davis Cup as a member of team Switzerland.
Gathering trophies and countless honors in tennis is one thing that Bruckmayer has in common with her idol, but another is the experience of overcoming a major injury.
The promising tennis prodigy would face one of her biggest challenges when she was skiing, resulting in an ACL tear. An injury that has ended countless athletic careers, Bruckmayer made sure to maintain a comeback mindset throughout her recovery.
“I tore my ACL doing a ski jump and didn’t even realize it was torn at first,” Bruckmayer said. She went on to say that she believed her athletic career in college was in jeopardy due to the injury, but her mother supported her through the recovery process and believed in her ability to return to playing tennis.
“[The recovery] was okay, but at first I cried a lot because I couldn’t ski or play tennis anymore. It took nine months, but now I’m back,” Bruckmayer said as she began to smile.
After a significant injury and lengthy recovery, it then became time for Bruckmayer and her family to decide where the persevering athlete would continue her academic and athletic career.
Enter a small school with a unique name located over 4,000 miles away- Slippery Rock University.
“[My mom] wanted me to fulfill my dreams. … Coach Matt was the nicest coach so I just decided to come here,” Bruckmayer said.
And just like that, a new chapter started in the resilient athlete’s life, joining senior star Viola Lugmayr (Linz, Austria) and Lois Page (Guisborough, England).
Lugmayr and Page have been instrumental in each other’s success, as the pair took home the 2019-20 PSAC Doubles championship and the 2019-20 ITA Atlantic Region Doubles championship. Since joining the team in September, Bruckmayer explains how Lugmayr and Page have made her transition to Slippery Rock a bit easier.
“Lois is from England and Viola is from Austria which is near Germany, so she only lives two hours away which is nice,” she said. “Viola also speaks German, so it’s much easier for me and whenever I have a problem I go to either Lois or Viola.”
With excellent role models to follow on the team, the promising freshman has taken full advantage of her opportunities.
Now in the second semester of her debut season at Slippery Rock, Bruckmayer seems to be right at home, going 11-2 in singles and 6-2 in doubles. Seemingly putting together an impressive resume by winning a majority of her matches, Bruckmayer keeps her goals short and sweet at SRU as dual season continues to get underway.
“I want to get better and ultimately be successful with my team and doubles partner,” Bruckmayer said.
It is evident that the rising star is already well on her way to achieving those goals, as the team is out to a strong 2-1 start in dual season, while Bruckmayer and her doubles partner, junior Amy Varckette are currently 5-2. After the pair spend more time building a relationship and understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, the newly formed duo will be a sight to see in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference competitions.
If her resume as an athlete and first season at Slippery Rock is an indicator of anything, it would be that there is no ceiling on the potential of Pia Bruckmeyer and coach Meredith’s team. Born in Altotting and showing All-American promise, Pia Bruckmeyer and her team will be a force in the PSAC for years to come.