The Oberlin Review

In the Locker Room: Brenna Sheldon and Preeya Shah

This week the Review sat down with junior Brenna Sheldon and senior Preeya Shah, two of only eight members on the small, but highly successful, women’s tennis team. The two discussed their upcoming season, new challenges, pre-season moments and near-death experiences.

Phoebe Hammer, Sports Editor

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How did you come to play tennis at Oberlin?

Brenna Sheldon: I found out about Oberlin from [Head Coach] Constantine [Ananiadis]. He sent me letters and called me and emailed me and left me messages. I never would have come here if not for him.

Preeya Shah: I picked Oberlin for its academics first, but Coach was a huge driving factor. He does a great job recruiting. I was on the phone with him for sometimes hours at random times before I came here.

BS: But I should also add that I didn’t come here just for tennis. I loved Oberlin when I visited!

What is it like being on a team so small?

PS: There are definitely pros and cons. For a tennis team, there is no real disadvantage because everyone gets an opportunity to play. Having the small team, we have an amazing dynamic.

BS: I can hang out individually with anyone on our team for hours. We are a family, so we sometimes have troubles, but we love each other.

How do you think this season is going to be different from last year?

BS: Well, we lost five seniors, but we also gained three talented freshmen.

PS: Yeah, the biggest difference will be lack of experience. Only four of us remain from last year. We are getting better, but we lost players who knew how to win. Winning and match experience is little different, but our freshmen also have great potential. They have that first-year excitement, and everyone is ready to go out there and give their 110 percent. Their enthusiasm makes a great dynamic.

BS: We don’t have anyone who isn’t willing to put in the extra work this year.

What are you most looking forward to this season?

PS: We ended on a really, really good note last season. We finished second in the conference and eighth in the region out of over 100 schools. We set the bar high, but I have no doubt that we are capable of surpassing that bar. We want it more this year, and we were so close last year to winning the conference that we know we can do it and can compete.

BS: We’re also excited about doing well on singles and doubles, so we can go on to Conference and Nationals.

What do you think will be the biggest challenge this season?

PS: Definitely not underestimating some of the big teams this year, like Denison [University] and Kenyon [College]. They’ve gotten stronger, and we need to find a balance between knowing we really need to step it up but also not underestimating our capabilities.

BS: The mental part is really important for us. We have to believe it because we have the abilities and skills. Tennis is such a mental sport, and you will hit the ball out if you aren’t thinking correctly. You’ll hit a winner if you are.

What did preseason look like?

BS: We got here a week before classes started. We would get up for practice for two hours, have lunch, take a nap and work out some more.

What kind of workouts?

BS: In the morning it was always tennis, and in the afternoon it was conditioning and weights.

PS: In the off-time we hung out. It was a great balance between working hard and being lazy.

What were some of your favorite preseason moments?

PS: Probably having our tennis mixer with the guys’ team.

BS: We forgot to say this earlier, but we are super close to the guys’ team — the players and the coaches. The men’s coaches are like dads on campus. The women’s coaches and assistant coaches too.

PS: It’s just a huge family dynamic. But yeah, the mixer was really fun.

But the dads weren’t there?

BS: No, the dads weren’t there.

PS: But they probably knew it was happening.

What are your favorite tennis memories?

PS: We have the funniest experiences on road trips. It’s hard to pick any specific one, but we have great times, and we don’t want to elaborate on Coach’s driving.

BS: Remember when the van just stopped? We were driving in the corn fields somewhere, and it just started smoking.

PS: Yes, we’ve had some near-death experiences, but who else would you want to experience those with?

BS: Anyway, tennis-specific, our win against Denison last year. It was like the windiest day on record. The ball would not go straight.

PS: That win. It was a crazy day. They used to play their second lineup, and now they play their regular lineup. The ride home that day was great. We were blasting music and going wild.

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