In the Locker Room with Mayada Audeh, Jackie McDermott and Sarah Hughes


Effie Kline-Salamon

Mayada Audeh (top), Jackie McDermott and Sarah Hughes

Tyler Sloan, Editor in Chief

This week, the Review sat down with women’s tennis rookies Jackie McDermott, Mayada Audeh and Sarah Hughes to discuss their first collegiate tennis season, goals for the rest of the year and why they chose Oberlin.

What has been your favorite part of playing on a college team so far?

Mayada Audeh: Probably just being part of a team because it’s really similar to high school tennis. But it’s different from the tournaments we played in junior tennis, when you’re all by yourself, because now you have people to support you.

Sarah Hughes: I never played high school tennis, so I’m not used to the team thing, but it’s been really fun so far.

Jackie McDermott: I think it definitely helped our transition to college a lot. We have really great camaraderie on our team, and our older teammates have been really supportive — not just helping us transition into tennis but also with academics and all of the aspects of college. They’ve really welcomed us in. Our coach is also really great, so it’s nice coming into a really supportive environment right away when you get to college.

How long have you been playing tennis and how does your previous experience compare to competing at the collegiate level?

MA: Since I was eight, so about 10 years. [In high school] tournaments you would always see people who were amazing and some who were at a much lower level than you. But here it’s kind of all equal, and it’s nice because you play against people that are of similar ages as you. I used to play against kids who were much younger but were really good and then some kids who were much older.

SH: Well, I’ve been playing since I was about eight, too. Before, when you would play tournaments, there were always some kids who weren’t as good, but here I feel like everyone is pretty much at the same level or better than you are. It’s a different game for sure.

JM: I’ve been playing since I was three. Everyone in my family plays tennis. My sister played in college and my parents play, my grandparents play, so it definitely is a family sport for us. I’ve always played year round, but I’ve never had this steady two-and-half hours a day, with lifts and with workouts, kind of practice schedule. So I can definitely see the way it’s improving my physical and mental game and my commitment to the sport.

Have you always wanted to play tennis in college? What was your recruiting process like?

JM: I have always aspired to play college tennis, and I knew that I wanted to go to a school where I could have everything that I wanted: be an athlete and go to an elite academic institution. I definitely felt that Oberlin could give me everything that I wanted to do and just a really great, enthusiastic, energetic tennis program.

MA: I never looked at a school where I wasn’t going to play tennis. I knew I wanted to play in college. It’s been part of my life for so long, I don’t think I would be able to just stop playing.

SH: I really wasn’t sure whether I wanted to play tennis or not, just because my family is a very tennis-family, and I wasn’t sure that’s what I wanted. But I’m happy that I did.

What have been your high and low points of the season so far?

JM: Australia was definitely a high point. I mean, how many people our age get to spend two weeks in Australia and go to the Australian Open? It was so fun and such a great opportunity for team bonding. Our strength of schedule is also really good. We have taken some tough losses, but I can definitely see the way that it’s making us improve. It’s all about where we want to be in April and where we want to be when it’s time for conferences.

SH: My high point so far this season has been being able to play doubles with Grace [Porter]. I tore my meniscus our first match in the fall. It’s been rough, and I haven’t been able to play singles yet. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do that in April.

JM: Mayada and I have gotten to play doubles together.

MA: Yes! That is my high point, playing with Jackie. We played the last couple of times together, and it’s been really fun. Our first match of the season was against [the University of] Chicago, and they’re a really tough team. So I think it was kind of rough having them as a first match because we had been practicing, but we hadn’t been playing a lot of matches, and we had just come back from a long trip and everyone was tired. That was probably a low point for the team, but we’re still improving, and they’re not in our conference.

What was your favorite part about your trip to Australia?

SH: It changed me [laughs]. I think going to the Australian Open and just being in a different culture and atmosphere was a really cool experience. Just connecting that to the tennis was fun.

MA: I think being in Melbourne was my favorite part. It’s a similar culture, but there are differences — people are really relaxed and easygoing. And it was summer there, which was really nice.

JM: Watching the Australian Open and being in Melbourne was amazing. One thing that was one of my favorite parts that maybe people haven’t talked about as much was we got to play at the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club. It is the former site of the Australian Open. They have tons of grass courts, and it’s just this beautiful, historical club. They’ve played Davis Cup matches there, and so many amazing, legendary pros have played there. And we were hosted by an Oberlin alum who played football with one of our coaches, Coach Erikson. So it was really cool to get to go to this amazing club and be hosted by one of our alums. Playing there was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Do you have any individual or team goals for the rest of the season?

SH: As a team, I think we can win our conference. I think [our goal is] just beating DePauw [University] and Denison [University], too. We have been gradually improving as the season goes on, and I think we could really do some damage this season. Individually, I want to play singles and get back into it.

MA: For the team, the back of our shirt says “Play in May,” which means if we win our conference we go to nationals, so maybe doing that as a team. Individually, my goal is winning those tough, close matches that I lose.

JM: My individual goals are similar. In high school, I was always so busy with academics, and I did theater and speech and all those kinds of things, so I’ve never had the opportunity to play this many singles matches. So I really want to take advantage of it and improve my singles game and learn how to win those close matches. For the team, our goal is always to win the conference and go to NCAAs. And I think one of the ways we can do that is always being energetic and supportive of the people that are on court, even when we’re not on court. When we’re watching our teammates, we need to be really into it to help motivate them. We can win the conference.