University of Utah senior Jena Cheng returned the ball with a forehand as the University of Utah Women's Tennis team take on University of Denver in Salt Lake City, UT on Saturday, February 17, 2018.

Awards and recognition are not only won with numbers. Oftentimes, the small and mighty teams come out on top. The University of Utah women’s nine-member tennis team has created a strong and powerful unit that makes them unstoppable on and off the court.

Senior Alexia Petrovic  said the Utes are off to a great start and this is arguably the best team performance she has seen this early in a season.

The women’s tennis team owes its success to each individual player and their ability to consistently come together. In addition to quality leadership and experienced players, these Utes make the most of their team events. Whether it’s doing homework together in the hotel during trips or meeting up for dinner before the Utah football games, they are finding ways to reinforce this bond.

“I like how close-knit we are. I think with our team, even though we have different personalities, we all kind of make it work,” said senior Jena Cheng. “I like having a small team because you are pretty close with everybody.”

However, being on a smaller team can create limitations. Injuries are a commonality in sports, and when a teammate gets hurt, the Utes are challenged with filling those positions. It is important for the women’s tennis team to stay healthy and fit because of their shortage of players. Cheng advises to take these situations as they come because “you can’t control the injuries” or speed up the healing process.

Cheng also mentioned how great the support system has been throughout her career. Even when she was sick or going through surgery, her teammates cared for her. Rather than feeling pressure to fill her role, Cheng felt compassion from her teammates. The Utes understand injuries and illnesses are temporary, and they do their best to give each other the highest respect.

“When we are on the court, we all cheer for each other. You can feel the energy from your teammates,” Cheng said. “I think off the court … they always just let you know that they are there for you.”

For the women’s tennis team, it’s the little every day actions that provide confidence before, during and after competitions. Taking from last year’s experiences, Petrovic and Cheng know what the team must do in order to progress upward in national rankings. They see the team’s potential and strive for improvement during every practice. The goal this season is to maintain positivity and focus on one match at a time, but the ultimate goal is qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.

“Every year we want to, but this year it kind of feels more real,” Cheng said. “Especially for me because I’m a senior and I really want to make it.”

Petrovic added that competing in the postseason is not too far out of their reach.

“I think we’re starting to put the pieces together,” Petrovic said. “We’ve all kind of changed our mindset a little bit more. We’re starting to get each other to feel a little bit tougher and we are a lot more goal oriented.”

While they are aware conference matches will be more challenging than their preseason schedule, they are looking forward to working their way up the ranks, together.

d.grossman@dailyutahchronicle.com

@dg_maui

Dakota Grossman
Dakota Grossman is the assistant sports editor for The Daily Utah Chronicle. She is currently pursuing her career in strategic communications while also competing for the university's cross country and track team.

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