A look at Sophie Whittle - college national tennis champion
Central Coast native Sophie Whittle can add national champion to her already impressive tennis résumé.
Currently a senior at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, Whittle became the first player in program history to win a Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Championship on Oct. 7 in Los Angeles.
The Arroyo Grande High School graduate played eight matches in six days, defeating five ranked opponents to capture the the prestigious ITA/Riviera All-American Championship title.
“I really had tunnel vision the whole tournament,” Whittle, a Nipomo native, told gozags.com. “I didn’t look at the draw. I was just focusing on one point at a time, and that really helped me. I think my game followed from that, and I trusted all of my shots and knew that I had put in the time and work for it all to come together.”
In the final match, Whittle took on freshman Maria Mateas of Duke.
Whittle got off to a quick 3-0 start and won the first set, 6-4.
Early in the second set, trailing 3-2, Whittle badly sprained her ankle when she tried to change direction.
“I fell and instantly started crying,” Whittle said. “I was really upset because I didn’t know if I was going to be able to walk on it.”
Whittle pressed on, albeit a step slower, as Mateas captured the second set, 7-5, to tie the match.
In the final set, Whittle rolled to a 6-3 victory, becoming Gonzaga’s first national champion in the process.
Whittle said she “felt a little bit of everything” when the match ended.
“I kind of just went blank,” she said. “I was relieved that it was over, but I just didn’t want that moment to end because I was just so happy, sad and a little bit relieved. I can’t really describe it, but I’m just happy I was able to represent Gonzaga.”
Head coach D.J. Gurule said Whittle’s mental toughness proved to be the difference maker in the championship round.
“It’s an amazing accomplishment, obviously, to be a national champion,” Gurule said, “but the manner in which she did it is unprecedented.”