Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

‘Persevering and competitive’: Micaela Ponce reflects on tennis’ central role in her life

Micaela Ponce hits a shot on a City Park tennis court. Ponce plays for Loyola’s tennis team. Courtesy of Selma Fereres

Over a tennis career that has spanned more than 15 years, Micaela Ponce, sophomore, was awarded Souther States Athletic Conference’s “Player of The Week” twice in row. Introduced to the sport at the age of four, Ponce said she has persevered in the athletics world due to one factor: love.

Ranked No. 1 in Ecuador since she was 14, Ponce now plays in rotation between No. 1 and No. 2 for doubles (partnered with senior Ariana Salguiero) and plays No. 2 for singles–all while majoring in graphic design. Her balance of athletics and academics has existed since she can remember, Ponce said.

Better known as Mica by her close friends, Ponce grew up surrounded by tennis. “Two of my three siblings play tennis,” Ponce said. “Our success was our whole family’s effort. No matter what was happening, I could always play at any tournament.”

Despite her closeness to her siblings, Ponce mentioned competition with her siblings. “It’s always been like one wants to be better than the other,” Ponce said “It was good to grow like that, but it wasn’t always. I put a lot of pressure on myself at times.” Despite that pressure, Ponce said her family is what drives her. “It was about pushing each other,” Ponce said. “My older brother went to college first. Seeing him do that meant we could also get a tennis scholarship, it meant we could be there.”

The hardships she has endured have been overcome by her family’s support and her mentality, Ponce said. From frightening knee surgery as a teenager to constant traveling, Ponce said she can see how her mental strength supports her.

“Dedicated, persevering, and competitive,” Ponce said. “That’s who I am, on and off the court.”

According to Ponce, there are specific ways that she has realized tennis has influence her. “I have a lot patience—especially with people,” Ponce said. “And it’s weird, I can read people a lot. When you have an opponent in front of you, you can tell when someone has had a good day. You can tell when someone is injured.”

There are some differences between the Ponce with a racket in her hand and the one without, Ponce said. “I’m a lot more emotional on court,” Ponce said. “There’s so much more in jeopardy and it all happens so fast. I’m more vulnerable. I’m tough, but it’s hard to digest things on the court.”

Ponce said she couldn’t execute her design classes without the support of her team and coach, Matthew Lewellyn. “I’m so grateful my coach understands my passion, and trusts me to take my classes and handle fitness.”

Tennis is about relationships, Ponce said. “It is about your relationship with your coach, your team, and your teachers,” Ponce said. “Communicate. It changes everything.”
Ponce said how the relationship she has with the girls on the team have changed her perception of tennis. “Playing in high school meant I was playing for my ranking,” Ponce said. “In college, your team depends on your wins to have the whole team’s ranking. It’s not your win, it’s the team’s win. It’s hard, but I do like college tennis better.”

“The team has felt like family and their support can change anything in a match,” said Ponce. Senior Lucy Carpenter precede’s Ponce in seniority and is an inspiration for Ponce. “It’s hard having seniors who leave,” Ponce said. “But right there behind Lucy truly is inspiring.”

When Carpenter notified Ponce of her award for SSAC, Ponce couldn’t believe it. “I loved reflecting upon it,” Ponce said, “I felt better last season. For a second I thought, ‘is the system messed up?’, but I learned that there are multiple ways to succeed.”

There are factors that determine Ponce’s success, according to her. “Whatever it takes–you have to be tough whenever you’re out there,” Ponce said “Determination, motivation, and love. You have to love what you do.”

When playing her first South American Championship at age 12, Ponce said she knew this was for her. She does not plan to stop soon. “I think about my parents; I think about my little sister going to college. I think about the past 16 years I’ve dedicated to this. I can’t stop now. It’s not the time to stop pushing.“

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    MicaApr 14, 2024 at 3:49 pm

    Best writer Isa 🫶🏻