Junior Margo Pletcher remembers her first collegiate tennis match like it was yesterday.
“My first college experience was in Miami, and we were at some dual matches at the University of Miami, and my first match was a doubles match with my partner Tereza [Bekerova], who played No. 1 for the team at the time,” Pletcher said. “It was pretty nerve-racking. I’m playing with the No. 1 player; we’re playing against a top 10 school. I was pretty nervous, and I definitely swung and missed some overheads in that match, but it was awesome.”
Pletcher and Bekerova would end up falling to France’s Altick and Astra Sharma of No. 5 Vanderbilt, but it launched a dream come true for Pletcher — playing tennis for a Pac-12 school.
Pletcher has had a racquet in her hands from the age of two, and it was love at first sight. As she grew up, and grew into the game, Pletcher’s father, Mitch, coached her.
“My dad pretty much taught me everything I know,” Pletcher said. “I’ve been to lots of academies and other coaches, but definitely my dad [has been the biggest influence].”
Playing for Dana Hills High School — 10 minutes away from her hometown of Laguna Niguel, California — Pletcher excelled. Pletcher and the Dolphins won the California Interscholastic Federation women’s tennis state title in 2012.
“I think I had a different high school experience than most people,” Pletcher said. “In my league, we had some incredible players, unlike most high school tennis. We had at least five or six girls that would play at top Division I schools. It was really competitive. It was really awesome to come and be part of a team, because in junior tennis you’re always on your own, so it was awesome to be part of a team, and taking the CIF title was awesome.”
Pletcher — the 11th ranked recruit in the class of 2014 from California and the 81st in the nation — was soon offered a scholarship from Utah, and when she took her visit to Salt Lake City, it clicked for her.
“My initial thoughts were all positive,” Pletcher said. “I thought [Utah] was an amazing school with amazing facilities — that’s what stood out to me the most, how awesome the facilities were. I loved my coach Mat [Iandolo], and I got great first vibes from him.”
Another factor in the California native’s decision to come to the U were the different seasons and the mountains that Utah has to offer.
“I loved the area, I loved the thought of experiencing seasons,” Pletcher said. “I thought it would be cool to be by the mountains and experience something different.”
Pletcher’s first taste of collegiate victory came later in the Miami Spring Invite in January, 2016 — she and Bekerova defeated Lina Lileikite and Stephanie Wager of Miami, 7-5.
“After the [Vanderbilt] match, we played the University of Miami, and we actually beat them,” Pletcher said.
Iandolo took notice at how Pletcher was pushing herself to get better in the offseason.
“She worked harder than any player on the team over the summer between her freshman and sophomore year to improve every aspect of her game,” Iandolo said. “She committed herself to playing high level tournaments, and she really wanted to play as high in the lineup as she possibly could, and wasn’t afraid to play No. 1 in the Pac-12.”
And so Pletcher was tapped for the No. 1 singles position her sophomore year, and was pitted against the best in the Pac-12 — and the nation.
“It’s kind of night and day,” Pletcher said. “It’s awesome to be able to challenge myself and match myself up with the top players, but it’s also hard. The first year, I had to take quite a few losses, but I also got quite a few awesome wins. It’s a really good feeling representing a Pac-12 school as the No. 1 singles and doubles players.”
Pletcher’s best victory of her sophomore year came against No. 28 Desirae Krawczyk of Arizona State. Pletcher defeated Krawzyk in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4. This offseason, Pletcher is working hard to show up her game for the tough competition ahead.
This season, Pletcher wants to lead the Utes to a NCAA tournament berth.
“I want to make it to NCAA’s,” Pletcher said. “I want to constantly improve in every aspect of my game, wanting to get better, wanting to put the work in, and hopefully by the end of the season, it will pay off.”