Freshman tennis player Sema Pankin was named WCC Freshman of the Year on April 24. This was after Pankin went 2-0 against players from Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine in the No. 1 singles position and won WCC Singles Player of the Week.
“Without my coaches Aaron, Sam and Pierre I would never make it,” Pankin said. “Without my teammates (either) because every day we are trying to make each other better.”
Pankin got his first win of his career at UP against an opponent from LMU, clinching 8-6. He then had a 6-4 and 6-3 win against his Pepperdine opponent the following day to move up to the top of Portland’s lineup.
The freshman from Omsk, Russia, has found success on the court despite being across the world from home. Fortunately, he had previously lived in the U.S., which has helped his adjustment.
“Really different here than back home, but that wasn’t (a) hard transition for me because I lived in U.S. before,” Pankin said. “Even if it’s different, I really like it here. Good people, nice weather, good facility.”
The men’s tennis team is currently 7-14 overall and 2-7 in conference play. Most recently, they lost to Gonzaga, 1-4. But Pankin and his teammates, who are mostly freshmen, have tried to stay positive throughout the season.
“We are a really young team and our best players are not playing the whole season because of injuries,” Pankin said, referring to senior Carlos Donat and sophomore Tom Hann. “But as our coach said, that’s a good experience...we are trying to make the best of it, working hard. And I feel like we will make something special here really soon as a team.”
The Pilots did not make the WCC Championships this season, but the whole team is expected to return next year.
“We put a lot of work in together and (we are) getting better every day,” Pankin said. “It’s a lot of fun, too, because now we are like a family, respecting each other a lot.”
Ana Clyde is a sports reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.