Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

USF tennis career started with Google

Ecaterina “Katie” Vasenina searches “Florida universities” on Google and ends up with a standout tennis career at USF.

USF (2012)

Ecaterina “Katie” Vasenina searches “Florida universities” on Google and ends up with a standout tennis career at USF.

TAMPA — In her native Moldova, when Ecaterina Vasenina decided her tennis skills could land her a college scholarship in the United States, her search for that new home began with her mother's obsession with all things Florida.

"She thought it was such an amazing, pretty state," said Vasenina, whose mother had never been to Florida. "Florida just sounds like a cool place to be."

Vasenina did a Google search for "Florida universities," found USF ("Everything was green") and emailed Bulls coach Agustin Moreno. He did online research and found Vasenina had an impressive junior career. A scholarship was offered and accepted, a sight-unseen transaction on both ends.

Four years later, Vasenina — "Katie" to friends — is wrapping up her USF career as the Bulls host Notre Dame in today's Big East championship final. To her, Florida is everything she read it was, and her English has improved tremendously, as has her tennis.

In Moldova (in Eastern Europe), nearly all the courts were clay — for which she credits her drop shot — and the lack of indoor courts kept her from practicing during colder months. As a result, Vasenina, 20, trained one winter in Spain, another in Australia. Those experiences prepared her for USF's international roster, which includes players from the United States, New Zealand, Spain, France and Venezuela.

Perhaps the best transition in her game has been her taking a largely individual sport and incorporating a team aspect.

"At first, it was really unusual for me. I didn't know how to cheer," said Vasenina, in her second year as the Bulls' No. 1 singles player. "It was strange. If my match was the last one, the whole team would go and cheer for me. Before, even when you were training with your friends, they didn't want you to win because it's an individual sport. It totally changed the selfish attitude that I had."

USF and Notre Dame have quite the rivalry. Today is the sixth time in eight years they meet for the Big East title, the Bulls winning only in 2007.

"It'll be tough, and they know we'll be tough," Moreno said. "We have a great respect for each other. It's a great setup for us here in the last year of the Big East."

The schools met a week ago on the USF courts. And though Notre Dame won 5-2, four of the six singles matches went to a third set. Vasenina was up 3-1 in the third set and serving at 40-15 before Britney Sanders rallied to win 6-3.

"We were so close," said Vasenina, who is working on a master's degree in global sustainability. "We're so excited (about today's match). We can't wait."

USF moves into the new American Athletic Conference this summer, and Vasenina is likely to stay with the team as a graduate assistant. The thought of a team championship at the end of her career is a dream for this individual.

"It's huge. I have goose bumps when I say it right now," she said. "It's going to be insane."

USF tennis career started with Google 04/20/13 [Last modified: Saturday, April 20, 2013 8:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Joe Maddon gets warm reception in return to the Trop

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The night was arranged to honor former Rays manager Joe Maddon in his first visit back to the Trop, and the standing ovation from the bipartisan crowd and scoreboard video tribute seemed proper acknowledgments of his hefty role in the Rays' success during his nine-year stint.

    Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) talks with reporters during a press conference before the start of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.
  2. Rays vs. Cubs, 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Cubs

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM; 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays' Blake Snell poses for a picture during the team's photo day at baseball spring training in Port Charlotte, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Cubs game

    The Heater

    Chris Archer's night ended with his 11th loss, but he and the Rays should feel good about his six solid innings. After the forearm tightness scare in Chicago, he had two rough outings (15 hits, 11 runs, seven innings), so Tuesday was a reassuring rebound.

  4. At 6-8, Lightning prospect Oleg Sosunov comes with, and needs, a high ceiling

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — When Hall of Famer Phil Esposito first saw Lightning prospect Oleg Sosunov, he joked that the 6-foot-8 defenseman could reach the Amalie Arena ceiling.

    Lightning 6-foot-8 defenseman Oleg Sosunov competes in the preseason opener. Phil Esposito jokes that Sosunov can reach the ceiling at Amalie Arena.
  5. Jones: Rays' Kevin Cash doesn't mind following in Joe Maddon's steps

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — On this particular night, he's the other guy. He's like a talk-show guest scooted to the end of the couch. He is Kevin Cash. And the Rays manager is standing in the home dugout at Tropicana Field.

    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Manager Kevin Cash (L) of the Tampa Bay Rays reacts to action during the game against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field on September 17, 2017 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images) 700012494