Maya Hart ’16
How did you first get into playing tennis?
I actually started when I was about eight years old, and I started playing with my dad at the same time, so it kind of started as a father-daughter activity. He hadn’t picked up a racket before and I hadn’t either, so it was really fun to pick it up together. That’s how I first started to love it.
Did you compete for your high school team?
I played for my high school team all four years, but throughout that process I was still focused on the junior USTA [United States Tennis Association] tournaments outside of that, so I kind of had to balance those with high school tennis.
What were your experiences playing USTA tournaments? Did you have to travel a lot?
Yeah, I would usually travel most weekends around New England and then, during the summer, across the country to Florida and California, where a lot of the bigger tournaments were. It was a lot of traveling and a lot of busy weekends.
What were some of your favorite experiences in the USTA program?
So I guess my favorite part was the traveling. It was very individualized, which is something I actually didn’t really like about it, and I like being on a team much more now. But it was very competitive and intense. I really enjoyed the traveling. I’ve been to Tennessee, Florida and California for national tournaments.
Were you recruited to play at Williams? What was the process like?
I knew I didn’t want to go to Amherst College [laughs] but I wanted a similar small-school environment and I knew that I wanted to stay on the East Coast. I was looking for a small-school environment so I was interested in a lot of the NESCAC schools, and I was looking at Middlebury and one Div. I school in North Carolina, Davidson. I really liked how they were all very impressive academically with good athletic programs. I knew that I wanted a school with strong academics but where I could still compete at a high level in terms of tennis. What really stuck out to me at Williams was the close-knit community, especially within the team. It really seemed to me to that everyone was playing for each other and it wasn’t about individual competition; it was about the team.
What were some of your favorite experiences on the team at Williams?
What’s always been most exciting for us has been the postseason, maybe because we have been so successful in the past. We sometimes actually struggle because we are looking forward to the postseason too much. But, what sticks out to me, one of my favorite moments, which is weird, was when we lost in the semifinals of the National Championships my sophomore year after winning the year before. To me, it was the epitome of Williams women’s tennis, because it was a really intense match against Amherst. We were down going into the singles portion and it was nighttime, the lights were on and we started to make a comeback. So it came down to a 4-4 match, and Linda Shin [’17], who is a junior now, was in the final match. We were all sitting on the sidelines, screaming and sobbing even though the match wasn’t over yet, and it was winner-take-all. She ended up splitting sets, but she badly sprained her ankle before the third. Even though she was in pain, she played the entire third set and got to a third-set tiebreaker before losing. The competitive energy and team spirit that we were all feeling throughout the match is the epitome of why we are such a great team.
What was it like winning the National Championship last year?
Last year is a great year to talk about because we had lost the year before. Although it was a great tournament, we were disappointed by that outcome, and my junior year we came back fired up. We went undefeated on the season, and we were so determined for the entire season. We did everything we could to come out on top.
Do you play singles or doubles?
Doubles. I actually only play doubles; I very much prefer doubles.
What is your favorite part of doubles?
I actually love to volley. I’ll do anything to stay away from the baseline, and I find it a lot of fun because it is so much more fast-paced than singles is, and just being out there with a partner is more exciting for me.
What role does doubles have in the match?
Something I really love about Division III tennis is that doubles is just as important as singles. It’s three doubles and six singles, so you have to win five of the nine matches. We start with doubles, so it definitely sets the pace for the match. Going up or down 3-0 in doubles is huge because you only have to win two more singles matches, so it definitely sets the tone.
What have been some of your favorite experiences on the team this year?
We went to the South for spring break and that was the first time I had ever been there. We had the chance to visit the University of Alabama because our coach knows their coach, and they gave us a tour of the football stadium. It was fun to compare schools. We also got to stay at a lake house with the entire team and coaches, so that was really fun.
What has your experience been like as a captain this year?
I think I didn’t realize how much of a responsibility it really is. I communicate a lot directly with the coach, and it’s also been really important to be more conscious of my relationships with all my teammates across the board.
Do you all have any team traditions?
We have a lot of things, but one of the things that we usually do is theme practices before matches. For example, we would do a rainbow theme with everyone a different color, and every year we’ll do the purple and gold theme for the match against Amherst. And we always do team snacks on the night before a match.
What is your go-to Snack Bar order?
Well, I’ve been trying to lay off Snack Bar a little, but I do have an answer. I usually have a grilled cheese and buffalo fries, and maybe a small gelato.