Riding an eleven-match win streak into the PSAC tournament, freshman transfer Adriana Gonzalez Sanchez has been instrumental in the Slippery Rock University women’s tennis team’s success.
From Moralzarzal, Spain, Gonzalez Sanchez arrived at The Rock after spending one year at Saint Louis University, an Atlantic 10 school in Missouri. Though thriving on the court, she wasn’t quite enjoying her time as a Billiken. A big reason being that the city wasn’t the safest, she explained.
“It was really stressful and I had a lot of pressure,” Gonzalez Sanchez said. “My first year wasn’t really positive for me, so I decided to find a place safer and a tennis team with which I wouldn’t have the pressure that I had at the Div. I school.”
At Saint Louis, Gonzalez Sanchez was playing on her team’s fourth singles flight. She wanted to land someplace that would play her higher in the lineup.
Her heart set on transferring around mid-April of last year as Gonzalez Sanchez spoke to a friend that helps students find schools. He recommended Slippery Rock and she took a look. Talks with the team solidified her choice to don green and white.
“I decided to transfer pretty late […], so I wasn’t able to visit campus or anything before transferring,” Gonzalez Sanchez said. “It was just, like, a last-minute decision, so I just took a look at the pictures that were on the internet of campus and I really liked it.”
She also got in touch with a friend whom she’d met while preparing for the SAT, Alejandro Fernandez, a fellow Spaniard and first-team All-PSAC West midfielder on SRU’s men’s soccer team. He put in a good word about the school and women’s tennis head coach Matt Meredith.
“A Div. I school is really more professional and you need to know every single rule and you need to follow everything,” Gonzalez Sanchez said, elaborating that the upper classification was much more strict, even with where players could stand while watching a teammate’s match.
Gonzalez Sanchez dropped her first two matches against Cleveland State and Carnegie Mellon. In singles, she hasn’t lost since. She’s also won both times that Meredith called on her to play on the top solo flight.
“I talked to my teammates and they told me that those two matches were for us just to play,” Gonzalez Sanchez said. “They explained that the coach wanted us to play without pressure. And for me, that was shocking, because my last coach, in Div. I, [match after match] he wouldn’t let you play without pressure. He was like, ‘You need to win this match.’”
Meredith, she said, has been a help since she and roommate Gabi del Val del Toro arrived. He was the one to pick them up from the airport. If they need to go somewhere, he takes them.
“He’s done everything that he could for us to be good here and to have fun,” Gonzalez Sanchez said. “[With no] in-person classes, we could not make many friends, so the team was, originally, our group of friends. He’s tried his best to make us feel comfortable.”
Also a freshman transfer from Spain, del Val del Toro has made playing and attending school through a pandemic easier on Gonzalez Sanchez.
“I’m really thankful that Gabi’s on the team, because Spanish practices are not like American practices and we both found that we were missing something,” Gonzalez Sanchez said.
The two would have extra practices together, doing the drills that they’ve so long been accustomed to.
Though they have mutual friends from the Spain’s national tournament, Gonzalez Sanchez and del Val del Toro have made each other’s time in Slippery Rock more enjoyable. For instance, when other teammates would return home for holidays, they stayed behind and kept each other company.
“If she wasn’t here, I would have had a really hard time,” Gonzalez Sanchez said.
Gonzalez Sanchez said she likes to constantly be on top of her studying responsibilities, oftentimes working ahead of her schedule. She estimates that, because of Zoom classes, she spends twice the hours on schoolwork than she did previously. Last semester, she carried through with her online schooling from her home in Spain, with a six-hour time difference.
“It was, like, 4 p.m. there in Spain and I had, like, a 10 a.m. class here in the U.S.,” Gonzalez Sanchez said. “And then I emailed my professors and then they were sleeping, or I was sleeping when they responded. So, it was really stressful. I [felt like I would spend] all day at my computer, erasing emails just so I didn’t miss something.”
On April 5, Gonzalez Sanchez joined Lois Page and del Val del Toro as the third Rock tennis player to be named PSAC West Athlete of the Week.
“That week literally took me by surprise,” Gonzalez Sanchez said. “I felt really happy, because it was like a prize for my effort and my results […] I’d never been Player of the Week. I’d been Rookie of the Week twice in Div. 1, but never Player of the Week.”
Gonzalez Sanchez wants to add Freshman of the Year to her mantle.
“I haven’t lost out-of-conference,” she pitched. “I’m the only freshman that is playing two singles and one doubles […] That’s a prize that I would like to win.”