When going off to university, the average college student travels approximately 91 miles to reach their destination. Freshman tennis sensation Lois Page traveled 3,577 miles from her hometown of Guisborough, United Kingdom to reach Slippery Rock University.
Adjusting to life in a foreign country, beginning classes full-time in order to achieve a degree in psychology and balancing it all with a brand-new social circle is hard enough but, unlike most, Page endeavors every day to cement her place in a Rock tennis squad where she is the only freshman.
“Every day I ask the question, maybe I ask it too much, I’m always worried about my freshmen,” head coach Matt Meredith said, rather sternly, regarding how she is adjusting to life in the United States, “She seems like she’s doing all right that way. I don’t care how good you are, it takes some time getting through that transition.”
Slippery Rock is already turning into a home away from home for Page. “Definitely the people,” Page said, talking about the atmosphere in Slippery Rock. “Everyone is so friendly. I get lost all the time but I can just ask anyone. Everyone will just talk to you and say hi when you walk past. It’s real nice.”
Page brings a winning pedigree to The Rock; the freshman prep star was ranked as high as 99th in England (U18) while being the top-ranked player in her region. Page’s prowess in doubles play caught Meredith’s eye in the recruiting cycle.
“She is a very talented doubles player. She gets it, that’s why we recruited her so much.” Meredith said. Meredith feels as though Page embodies what it means to be Rock tennis so strongly that he has admitted that the freshman is one of the best signings in his 21 years at the helm of Rock tennis. “I know what I recruited,” Meredith said, grinning, “I think my expectations are there and she’s going to be a tremendous player for us as she grows.”
Page did not have long to wait in order to prove herself to her teammates, and herself, as the squad competed in the Oberlin Invitational last weekend. A 1-2 singles record, and 2-1 doubles record may seem so-so to a casual observer, but the freshman competed against veteran upperclassmen in her first taste of collegiate tennis. A heavily contested 7-5, 6-2 defeat in her first singles match followed by a heart-wrenching 3-4, 4-3, 10-2 loss may have left other young tennis players frustrated with an inability to close out, but Lois channelled that disappointment into one of the finest showings in the invitational. In her third singles match, Page defeated her opponent 4-0, 4-0 in dominating fashion to earn her first collegiate singles victory.
“It feels good,” Page said, with a bashful smile. “I was really nervous when I first started but once I got going, it was good fun.”
The experience for Page may prove to be more beneficial than the scenario initially appears to be. Although only an early season individual tournament, Page had an opportunity to either fold in the face of adversity and fall to 0-3 early in her collegiate career or rise to the occasion and seal one of the strongest matches of the young season. Dominating triumph aside, Page has shown resilience, moxie and a resolve to be the best tennis player she can be.
Starting her doubles career with junior Lacey Cohen, Page went 1-1. The duo lost their first match 8-5 before rebounding with an 8-4 victory. Page teamed with junior Viola Lugmayr for a second doubles victory 8-5. The new pairing is something that Meredith feels will stick, pairing Page and Lugmayr for the foreseeable future. With the first invitational of her collegiate career now in the rear-view window, Page can pinpoint areas of weakness in order to improve her craft before Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) play rolls around on the last weekend of September. “Slowing down. Getting more control. Not losing quickly, that’s the best way I can put it. The mental part of the game is going to be a big factor for her. She has all the tools, it’s getting her to slow down and analyze the opponents she is playing,” Meredith said.
With the technical points of her game already fine-tuned, Page simply needs more matches under her belt. The ITA Atlantic Regionals Championship this weekend followed by a home contest with Daemen College the following Sunday present the freshman star a prime opportunity to gain the valuable experience she needs before pivotal fall match-ups with PSAC foes.
Being compared to former world number one player, seven-time Grand Slam champion, John McEnroe, even being mentioned in the same breath as the legend, is one of the highest honors in tennis. A freshman with six games of collegiate experience would not seem to be the ideal candidate but Meredith feels as though Page’s game compares favorably to the tennis legend’s style of play.
“She is a server volleyer. Which nowadays is her weapon, that’s what sets her apart from a lot people out there. She comes in and knows how to serve and volley where a lot of kids sit back and grind out points. She’ll go out there and attack and because that’s so rare…,” Meredith said, trying to find the right words. “The best way I can put it is John McEnroe going against [Bjorn] Borg. That’s Lois’ niche right now, she’s a server volley attacker and once we get her a little more comfortable and a little more consistent, so she can attack…you know, that’s what sets her apart.”
Meredith knows how Lois Page is capable of performing this season, now he needs Lois to become more comfortable and figure it out for herself.
“As she becomes more comfortable, we’re going to see her coming into her own and become the player that is there. Trust me, it’s there, it’s just going to take some getting her there,” Meredith said.
In the end, regardless of unfair expectations or sky-high hopes, Lois Page is just happy to be able to play some tennis.
“Definitely playing more matches,” Page said, laughing happily about her hopes for this season. “I’m quite competitive so that’s good. I want to win a bit more.”