The Western women’s tennis team pulled off a historic comeback victory last October at the OUA Championships to earn a trip to the National University Championships. Trailing 3-0 against York University in the Championship match, the team’s resilience proved key as they stormed back to capture gold with a 4-3 win. In addition to capturing the trophy, the team also booked their spot in the upcoming Nationals which will be held at York University’s Aviva Centre during Rogers Cup presented by National Bank from August 5–13, 2017.
Going undefeated in singles play this season, Helen He helped lead the way for Western to capture their tenth OUA title and first since 2012. Helen was named Women’s Player of the Year and an OUA all-star for the second straight season.
As the team prepares for the upcoming University National Championships, we spoke with He about her experiences growing up playing tennis and how that has translated to her success within the Mustangs’ tennis program.
How did you get your start in the game of tennis?
My parents were very active tennis fans so when I lived in China I began taking lessons in grade one. I moved to Canada in grade five and played in the Ontario Tennis Association (OTA) until I was 16.
Why did you decide on the University of Western Ontario and to play university tennis in Canada?
I visited the Western facilities in grade nine and was able to meet the coach, Mike Richards. I was very interested in the Ivey Business School at Western. When I found out the team won the OUA Championship in 2012 it really made me think it would be great to be a part of that.
How did it feel to capture the Mustang’s first OUA championship title since 2012?
We only had five returning players on the team so I think having a lot of new players brought good energy to the team. We weren’t expected to win, being ranked third during the season, but we managed to come together in the end and win 4-3 in a very tight match. We were very happy to pull off such an amazing win in the finals.
Congratulations on going undefeated in singles play. How did you prepare for the season to achieve this result?
I have always had success in singles in the past. I would say that I am strongest in singles but the biggest factor was being able to learn from previous matches during the season and to focus on pushing forward.
What are your expectations for your team?
Balancing tennis and school is tough which makes it very important to train very hard through the summer. My expectation is for everyone to try their best and give it their all. Training every day during the season is a very important contributor to our success as a team.
Do you have any favourite memories from the season?
Our coaches have always been very supportive. Even when we are losing, they keep pushing forward. One of my favourite moments was when we were down 1-3 and our coach said he believed in us, which motivated us to come back.
What is your favourite part about playing university tennis?
I love the team dynamic. It can get lonely playing on your own in high school and in the OTA so experiencing the benefits of being on a team is unlike the regular tennis experience. Teammates are always there to support you and the friendships you make will continue outside of tennis. It is always nice to have someone to cheer you on.
How would you describe the competition level in the university program?
The competition every year is getting higher and higher. Strong players are joining from the OTA and some players are choosing to stay in Canada rather than going to university in the United States.
What are you studying and what do you hope to do after university?
I am majoring in Economics right now and I want to get into the Ivey Business program. I want to have a career in consulting and combine my passion for tennis and business.
The National University Championships will be held at York University’s Aviva Centre during Rogers Cup presented by National Bank from August 5 – 13, 2017. Check back here for more information.