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Sunday, June 13, 2021

Tennis

With California trip, talented Cougars look for support


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This trip to the ITA Women’s All-American Tennis Championships marks Vogasari’s second appearance in the tournament. Older and wiser, Vogasari hopes to top her round of 64 finish from last year’s trip.  |  Courtesy of UH Athletics

To most, a trip to Los Angeles for a tennis tournament might seem like a getaway, but for senior Elena Kordolaimi and sophomore Despoina Vogasari, it’s an event they won’t take for granted.

Kordolaimi and Vogasari were selected to compete in the prestigous 2014 Riviera/ITA Woman’s All-American Tennis Championships, where they will compete in singles and doubles matches.

Unlike normal tennis tournaments, where players compete as a university against other teams, the players competing in the ITA All-American are chosen to play amongst the top 128 women from around the United States.

As a senior, this is Kordolaimi’s last opportunity to compete in the tournament.

Vogasari, the No. 1 seed for UH, participated in the tournament last year and was impressed with its overall atmosphere and organization.

As a freshman, she and Maria Cardenas were the first Cougars to be invited to the event since 2004. Vogasari said she had a wonderful time and enjoyed the perks of California weather.

Being a veteran also serves in her favor, because she will know her way around and be less sensitive to the championship’s intimidation.

According to Vogasari, head coach Patrick Sullivan said, “We should just go out there and have fun because at the end of the day, that’s what they care about.”

Both of the Cougars are from Greece, giving them an added sense of comfort playing together. Vogasari also said the duo has great chemistry, which is “hard to find.” Having the same culture allows them to win a lot of matches with agreeable communication. They have a good success rate as a doubles team because they are able to help each other critically, whenever appropriate, without having to worry about offending one another.

Kordolaimi said they plan to be as prepared as possible by supporting each other on the court through practicing, as that’s where the difference can be made.

“We hold each other accountable,” said Kordolaimi. “Whether that’s how we spend our time after or before the match, and how well prepared we get ourselves for the match.”

Once at the tournament, Kordolaimi and Vogasari want to do the best they can not only for personal records, but a ‘thank you’ for the UH coaching and training staff.

Kordolaimi said she appreciates the “excellent job” the trainers do for her. She said that from her own experience dealing with injuries, one trainer was working with her over Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, just to make sure that she was up to her best tennis standards. The accessibility with rehab and academics made all the difference in why she is proud to play for such a caring staff.

“Nothing ever too distant and formal,” Kordolaimi said. “You can just go speak to people. It’s easy to find people that care for you just because of your sport. But at the University of Houston they care for you as a person, beyond academics and sports.”

Vogasari testified that no matter the reason, big or small, the staff is always supportive. “The whole faculty is beside us and behind us every step of the way,” Vogasari said.

“For every reason they have someone to talk to that actually cares about what they’re facing.”

You won’t find people tailgating, big bleachers or a huge celebration for tennis. But the women that play for UH know that if given the chance, they won’t let the students down.

On behalf of the team, Kordolaimi said, “we just ask for support, nothing else. We just want people to watch us and to get to know tennis.”

Kordolaimi and Vogasari agree that it’s not just about winning for UH. Along with the rest of the team, they know the importance of attitude and building a respectable reputation. When someone watches them, they want to leave a positive UH impression.

Vogasari wants people to know that their team is made up of “seven hard-working girls” who perfect their craft all year round.

“If we weren’t a good team we wouldn’t ask for anything.”

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