By Cory Kamerschak
Not all college athletes have dreams of making it big and playing professionally. In fact, the reality is that the vast majority of student athletes will conclude their competitive playing days in college, and some are just fine with that.
Stephanie Vlad is a senior at Arizona State and has been on the women’s tennis team for four years now. She will be graduating in May and the Sun Devils will be losing one of the fiercest competitors the program has seen in recent memory.
“I hate to lose, solid fact,” Vlad said. “I don’t really feel like I have the biggest size and physique so it kind of makes me a little feistier on the court and that hatred to lose has helped me become a better competitor.”
The 5-foot-4 senior is the only Arizona native (Scottsdale) on the team this year and is currently tied for 18th in school history in all-time wins with a 72-47 singles record.
Head coach Sheila McInerny feels that it is difficult to recruit good local talent due to the Pac-12 having so many quality programs nearby, so she was happy to be able to recruit some homegrown talent.
“Stephanie Vlad has meant a lot to the team,” McInerny said. “Being a local product, I think there’s not that many good local players and she’s certainly one of the best we’ve had.”
McInerny knows a thing or two about quality athletes as she is the longest tenured coach at ASU at 32 years and has taken the Sun Devils into the post-season in 28 consecutive seasons.
Fellow senior and Sun Devils teammate Desirae Krawczyk has been Vlad’s doubles partner for the past two seasons, but the two have known each other even before their time at ASU. Krawczyk has had a front row view of Vlad’s fiery competitiveness and will miss competing with her on an everyday basis.
“She’s got that drive and passion to play and compete,” Krawczyk said. “It’s good to have a partner like that on the court and especially playing with her the past two years has really been fun.”
Although Vlad has experienced a lot of success while at ASU, she has aspirations that go beyond just the tennis court.
She will be leaving the Valley late this summer to pursue her master’s degree at the University of Redlands in Southern California but wants to remain involved with tennis and collegiate athletics as much as she can.
“After the experience that I’ve had here, I want to also help other athletes have a good college experience,” Vlad said. “I still want to be working in the tennis industry in some way.”
Vlad walks away from ASU with a bachelor’s degree in sports and media studies along with memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.
“Being able to attend Arizona State University, I’ve gotten the chance to meet so many different students,” Vlad said. “Building the friendships I’ve made on and off the court have been great.”
However, before the sun sets on her tennis career, the Sun Devils will travel to Ojai, California to compete in the Pac-12 Championships toward the end of April before heading to Tulsa, Oklahoma for the NCAA Championships in May.