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Silvia Ambrosio taking leadership role after BIG EAST Freshman of the Year season

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Marquette Women's Tennis vs. ISU

Marquette Women's Tennis vs. ISU

Photo by Maggie Bean

Photo by Maggie Bean

Marquette Women's Tennis vs. ISU

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As the final match on the last day of the Milwaukee Tennis Classic wraps up, the women’s tennis team gathered for a huddle. It’d been a long kick-off weekend to the season, and nearly everyone was ready to return home from the Fox Point Country Club.

One teammate, meanwhile, succumbed to emotion at her court-side bench moments after losing a particularly tight match to an in-state rival. Sophomore Silvia Ambrosio notices and immediately breaks from the rest of the group to offer consolation.

It’s a leadership role Ambrosio didn’t necessarily expect. Then again, she didn’t expect to earn a BIG EAST Freshman of the Year title last year either.

“It’s always hard, especially for international students, to come and play U.S. college tennis because it’s so different. So winning (BIG EAST Freshman of the Year) was really nice,” Ambrosio, a German native, said.

While on the phone with her mom last May, Ambrosio received a text from a friend with a screenshot announcing the award.

At first, it didn’t register. With her mother confused on the other side of the call, Ambrosio eventually made sense of the fateful message.

“‘What happened?’ my mom kept asking,” Ambrosio said. “‘I think I’m Freshman of the Year,’ I told her. My mom went silent. We both did. And then we freaked out.”

Despite the prestigious recognition, the sophomore still shies away from proclaiming herself a team leader. Thanks to a nagging shoulder injury, however, Ambrosio spent last weekend’s local tournament off the court with her leadership skills on full display.

She studied every match with intensity. She cheered and clapped at every put-away shot and untouchable serve. She cried out after suspect line calls. She offered unwavering support and valuable sideline insights.

“I think, for everyone, if a player is good then they are good no matter what,” Ambrosio said. “But I’m not sure, honestly, if this makes me more of a leader necessarily.”

“Someone on the outside may say, ‘She’s Freshman of the Year, that must be a big thing,’ but on the team we all know who we are, with or without titles.”

Though she may be coy about the off-court details, Ambrosio fully embraces what it means where it really matters: on the court.

“If you achieve something, your goal is to be even better next time. I want to be MVP this year,” Ambrosio said.

She admits expectations are high, but she looks back at last year and sees where she can improve. Ambrosio’s practicing harder now than ever before, hoping to kick the bad habits and nix those third set losses that linger in the back of her mind.

As a pragmatist, she understands accolades only come after success, and careers have peaks and valleys.

“I’m just putting pressure on myself saying, ‘You can be better. I know you can be better,’ but if I don’t, it’s still fine,” Ambrosio said. “I’ve had more downs in tennis than ups. I had an up last semester, and I’m still feeling good. I’ve never felt as good over such a long period of time and I’m definitely more confident now.”

The rest of Ambrosio’s tennis world has expectations for her as well, and she knows it. As a competitor, she understands the more success she achieves, the bigger and brighter the painted target on her back becomes.

It’s all mostly noise to her, just background distractions that shouldn’t swing a match one way or another. For head coach Jody Bronson, this season will be spent keeping the sophomore focused and always working toward improvement.

“She’s in a tough position. When you play number one on a team, every match is an unbelievable battle,” Bronson said. “Hopefully she’s grown from that experience from last year and will be ready to handle everything better this year.”

For now, Ambrosio’s just focused on getting healthy and playing strong throughout the fall tournament season. She hopes to play in next weekend’s Dallas-based SMU Invitational, where she can return to not just making her mark off the court, but on it as well.

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