SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. - Freshman Anna Guryanova (Moscow, Russia) is one of three newcomers to the Seton Hall tennis team that has had an immediate impact during the 2011-12 season.
Along with Maria Rodriguez (Bogota, Colombia) and Madison Shoemaker (Halfmoon Bay, British Columbia), Guryanova is part of an influx of talent that has played a key role in the team's victories this year.
In the fall, the Moscow native got her collegiate career started by advancing all the way to the finals of the Quinnipiac Invitational D flight, where she met her teammate and eventual champion, Rodriguez.
Guryanova has continued as a singles force for the Pirates as the season has progressed, winning in 60 percent of her appearances in the singles lineup for a dual matches. The freshman recently posted four consecutive wins and is in the middle of a stretch where she has won four of her last five matches.
Perhaps the most important impact that Guryanova has had on this year's edition of the Pirates has come during doubles competition, where she has primarily teamed with Rodriguez to form a formidable duo.
After winning the B flight and becoming the first SHU team to capture a title at the Eastern Intercollegiate Championships, a run that included victories over pairs from BIG EAST rivals Pittsburgh and Connecticut, the two have carried their strong play over into the dual match portion of the schedule.
Playing together, Guryanova and Rodriguez have come out on top in five of their eight appearances in head-to-head matches for the Hall.
Overall, the two freshmen have combined to tally a team-high 11 doubles victories.
As the team readies for another BIG EAST clash, Guryanova took some time out for a little back-and-forth with At the Net.
Q: When did you start playing tennis and what interested you about the game?
Guryanova: As I remember, my first time playing tennis was when I was four years old. Of course at first, it was primarily just for the enjoyment of the game. As I got older and more experienced, I started to appreciate how technical tennis is as a sport. What drives me now is the desire to continuously improve as a player and becoming more precise in what I do on the court.
Q: Why did Seton Hall stand out as the right place to continue your career?
Guryanova: I want to be a professional, which is why I have to be surrounded by professionals. Seton Hall University provides the opportunity to play against elite collegiate competition and make connections with people that can help me reach my goal.
Q: A lot of athletes have pregame rituals or superstitions. What are some of the things you do to get yourself ready for a match?
Guryanova: Yes, I have a ritual, but it's my little secret. Aside from that, before the match you just want to make sure you're focused mentally and you do the right things to get your body ready to go.
Q: You have won four of your last five singles matches. Can you highlight some of the things that have been working for you on the court during this stretch?
Guryanova: Playing well comes from a balance of a variety of different things. You have to be invested in what you're doing during training, maintain a level of concentration during the match and keep a good sense of humor so you are not putting too much pressure on yourself. Also the support from my team helps and I am motivated because I want to do my part to help us succeed as a unit.
Q: You and your doubles partner Maria [Rodriguez] lead the team with 11 victories to this point in the season. Why do you think you guys have been able to have so much early success despite both being first-year players?
Guryanova: I think you have answered your question - we are freshmen! We are able to go out there and be loose and just play our game and so far that has worked out well for us. By the way, my classmate Madison is also a great player. All of us are excited to be Pirates and look forward to winning a lot of matches for Seton Hall.
The Pirates get their next chance to put one in the win column on Sunday April 1, when they travel to Queens to take on St. John's. Start-time is slated for 1:00 p.m.