Following her own path

Published by Tyler Howe, Date: March 7, 2023
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The alarm went off and it was time to get up again. It was like a never-ending cycle. Adriana Gonzalez Sanchez had to be on the court for her practices soon. It was just so dreary out. The weather was almost a representation of how she had come to feel about St. Louis.

As if being so far away from Madrid and home was not enough, her love for the game of tennis had slowly been fading away. She was grateful for the opportunity that she had received, of course. Not everyone gets the opportunity to come to the United States.

There was a virus going around, though. Right now, that did not matter. All that mattered was that she got to practice on time.

A couple of weeks later, she was sitting at home. The entire world was in shock due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but in a way, it was a relief to be able to go home and make some decisions.

The process now became whether or not she even wanted to return to the United States. It took a lot of reflecting on what had happened in St. Louis.

“For my first school, I was looking for a strong academic school, because tennis was not my first priority and it is not my first priority now,” Gonzalez Sanchez said. “St. Louis turned out to be the best option because it was good academically, so I went there, but tennis sucked.”

In her freshman year, she dreaded playing the sport that she loved so much. Her coach started to push her further and further from the desire to be out on the court.

“My coach was not nice, and I was the only freshman there, and I wasn’t hazed but I was close to being hazed while I was there,” Gonzalez Sanchez said. “I just hated it there, because no matter what I did it was not enough.”

Even through that, she was able to find success on and off the court. She earned multiple honors for her play in a very short season that was cut short due to COVID-19.

“I was named rookie of the week twice, and that’s big for a freshman so I was really happy, but I didn’t even get a congrats,” Gonzalez Sanchez said.

While at home, she weighed her options. Did she want to risk going to a new school and the treatment being the same as in St. Louis, or did she want to stay home? Because of that, her decision to transfer came late.

“I actually decided to transfer pretty late, and I was thinking about staying home instead of transferring to Slip,” Gonzalez Sanchez said. “Then I talked to a friend.”

That friend was Alejandro Fernandez. They went to school together in Spain, and Fernandez was part of the men’s soccer team at the time. He has since transferred from The Rock to Carnegie Mellon University.

Without Fernandez, there is a chance that Gonzalez Sanchez never comes to Slippery Rock, but it is a decision she does not regret.

She also had conversations with Rock Tennis Head Coach Matt Meredith, who made it clear that she is a student above all else.

“The sentence that he said that stuck with was, ‘you’re a student before an athlete,’” Gonzalez Sanchez said. “I want to play tennis and I love to play tennis, but I’m here to get a degree.”

Meredith has maintained his promise. He has also made sure to look out for every girl on the team. While many student-athletes are within at least a few hours of their parents, the foreign players are worlds away from their families.

“Coming from a foreign country and not having our parents here or someone who actually cares about us is hard,” Gonzalez Sanchez said. “He’s made it clear that he cares about us and because our parents aren’t here, he’s our emergency contact.”

Having that support has meant everything to Gonzalez Sanchez, and it has helped her to excel on the court.

In her first year in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC), she was named the PSAC West Athlete of the Year. She posted an 11-3 record in both singles and doubles. In 2022, she was part of a team that made their way to the PSAC title match and the NCAA tournament.

But most importantly, she likes that everyone on the team takes responsibility and figures out ways to get better every day.

“After every match, we say something that we did good and something that can improve, and that definitely helps because everyone [has] positive feedback,” Gonzalez Sanchez said.

One thing that is different about Slippery Rock is the fact that it is safe. Gonzalez Sanchez couldn’t walk outside in St. Louis without being scared for her safety. Because of that, she spent a lot of time in her dorm room.

Here, she has been able get out and explore not only Slippery Rock but everywhere around it.

“The town has everything I need, we have the supermarket and main street, which I really appreciate after being in St. Louis for a year,” Gonzalez Sanchez said. “The change of pace is big, but I like it.”

The goal after she is done is to stay in America. She loves it here, but the food she could leave. Whenever she goes anywhere, there is one thing she loves, though: cheeseburgers with a side of French fries.

“I love burgers here, every time we go somewhere, my coach knows what I want to order,” Gonzalez Sanchez said. “A bacon cheeseburger with fries is definitely my go-to.”

After a match, there is nothing she loves more than just that. However, the food at home is still much better than anything she has had here. It makes her crave home a little sometimes, but the people here have made this feel like her second home.

Some unfinished business remains, though. The next time she sees home, her playing days will likely be done, and she wants to make the most of them while she can.

She still has a few goals before she graduates. First off, she wants to take down Indiana (Pa.). But most importantly, she wants a title.

“We really want to beat IUP; my sophomore year we lost 4-3 and it was really close, but I definitely want to win a championship before I’m done,” Gonzalez Sanchez said. “And we’re not too far off.”

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Tyler is a senior converged journalism major. This is his second semester as the sports editor of the Rocket. He has written well over 150 articles with the paper, while covering every sport SRU has to offer. He also covered the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden, while the Rocket went to New York City in March 2022.

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