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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Marks helping turn around Arizona women’s tennis

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Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Senior Natasha Marks took a chance coming to Arizona from Nottingham, England. Little did she know her four-year career as a Wildcat would build up the women’s tennis program into a top-30 team.

“The program was in the low 70s when seniors like Tash started playing and every year they have been able to contribute,” head coach Vicky Maes said. “Tash has been able to say, ‘Oh my gosh, this is the best match this year,’ because I know from prior seasons how far we had to travel to get there.’”

Marks is currently ranked No. 81 in singles play with an overall record of 14-2 for the season. She also teams up with sophomore Lacey Smyth in doubles. The duo is ranked No. 50 in the country.
“Tash is an encouraging person,” Smyth said. “She is very upbeat and a positive influence to all of us. She believes in everyone and she is more than just a captain she is a friend.”

As co-captain, Marks began the season as more of a silent leader. Now, with seven matches left in her final season, she finds herself motivating and genuinely having a good time with her friends.
“We have a strong team dynamic,” Marks said. “This came from simply connecting with a good group of people who have a common goal of finishing in the top 25.”

The team travels to California this weekend to take on No. 6 Stanford and No. 9 Cal.

“We have nothing to lose at all going into these matches, especially the two other seniors and myself,” Marks said. “We can just play free, enjoy it, and most of all not go in intimidated and compete to our best ability.”

Wins this weekend could push the Wildcats into the top 20 and potentially allow them to host during the national competition.

Off the court, Marks writes for Arizona Athletics’ website in a weekly article called “Talkin with Tash.” She discusses the team’s progress each week. Marks is also majoring in marketing and plans to graduate next year.

“I had a good junior career coming in to college and now I just think my time is up,” Marks said. “Tennis is a huge part of my life, and I will still be involved in some way, but it is time for me to start a new chapter in my life.”

Urquidi is motivation at its best

Sophomore Mario Urquidi is known as the comeback king this season. His drive and determination pushes him through the long, drawn-out, three-set matches he frequently plays.

“Mario is a great competitor and raises his level against top competition,” head coach Tad Berkowitz said. “Without a doubt he is the most improved player on our team.”

His overall record is 6-9 in singles play. Of these 15 matches Urquidi played, eight of them went into three-set matches. His record for three-set matches is 5-3. In doubles play, Urquidi teams up with freshman Carlos Bermudez.

“He is a mentally strong player,” Bermudez said. “When he gets down he still pushes himself, which pushes me. He is fun to be around and is a positive influence on everyone.”

Urquidi follows a ritual for every match. The night before, he joins his teammates for dinner to kick back and relax. The following day after warming up and stretching, Urquidi listens to electronic music to pump himself up for the long day ahead.

When Urquidi finds himself either down a set or tying up the match, he uses “that second wave of energy to push through.”

“When my teammates get fired up, I get fired up and it definitely helps me get through those long matches,” Urquidi said.

Watching fellow sophomore Kieren Thompson pull out the win against Idaho is Urquidi’s fondest memory of the season. Urquidi and Thompson along with the two other sophomores pulled off the 4-3 victory against Idaho for the Wildcats.

Although the team is struggling, it opens up Pac-12 play against No. 8 Stanford and No. 12 Cal at home on Friday and Sunday.

“Playing two top-level teams forces us to focus and go in with good positive energy as a team,” Urquidi said.

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