New Zealand native’s journey to Marquette

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Tiana Windbuchler attempts a backhand volley Feb. 2. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

Every athlete has a journey to their collegiate career, if they are even lucky enough to make it that far. Not to mention the miles of travel they have had to put in to get to where they are today.

Redshirt first-year women’s tennis player Tiana Windbuchler is the exact description of those miles and time sacrifices. Born in Auckland, New Zealand, Windbuchler had an incredible journey to get to where she is today.

Her love of the sport started at a young age, as she grew up watching sports with her dad.

“We would watch basketball, rugby, tennis, or any other kind of sport,” Windbuchler said.

Tennis was her favorite, though. Tennis is very popular in New Zealand, which could have lead her to like the game.

“Over there its a very leisurely sport,” Windbuchler said.

She began to play tennis and then asked her parents if she could play more often when she was 12 years old. From there, her love of the sport grew. She started playing in programs, tournaments and eventually in the Tennis New Zealand National Academy, which Windbuchler said is an organization run by Tennis New Zealand.

“I played in the Academy from when I was 12 until I moved away, which was at age 15,” Windbuchler said.

Windbuchler said she worked hard at the Academy, training five days a week. Her training at the academy consisted of lots of testing for fitness and body mass. The training demands were similar to those at the Athletic Human Performance Research Center, as players were used to experiment and test certain tools and new equipment.

“We were the perfect guinea pigs for them because we are intense athletes,” Windbuchler said. “There was this little wrench that had a little scale in it and it would squeeze a bit of your stomach and it will tell you how much fat you have. There were also these electronic gates that would measure how fast we ran over a certain length.”

Tournaments in New Zealand do not happen often, but they are major events when they do happen. There are 6-8 minor regional tournaments that happen throughout the year and one of them is a “Top 8,” where the top eight athletes in each respective age group play in one national tournament in January. Windbuchler was not sure if this occurs this year due to COVID-19.

The regional tournaments happen in some of the major cities in New Zealand such as Auckland and Hamilton. These tournaments have different age groups: 12s, 14x, 16s and 18s.

When it came to preparing for a tournament, other than typical practices and a quick warmup before a match, Windbuchler did not prepare much.

“I was not much of a preparer, I like to have a lot of fun, hang loose and just hang out with my friends,” Windbuchler said.

When she came over to the U.S., Windbuchler noticed that there was a big change in the game dynamic compared to her home country.

“In New Zealand if you try your best you are seen as trying too hard and here if you don’t try your best you are seen as a fool,” Windbuchler said.

Windbuchler was supposed to come to Marquette last fall semester, but due to complications, her trip was delayed.

“I got delayed due to visa issues, so I took an involuntary gap year,” Windbuchler said.

Some coaches get worried when when someone new joins the team in the middle of the season. Some coaches may be worried about who they’re going to get, but that is not the case with Windbuchler. Head coach of the women’s tennis team, Steve Rodecap, described her as “multi-dimensional.”

Rodecap said all the players on the team also love her.

“She is one of those players that everyone likes, she is a happy-go lucky type of kid,” Rodecap said.

Windbuchler said she likes the coaching techniques of Rodecap.

“He pays a lot of attention to his players, he has that balance of very serious and off the court you can joke around with him,” Windbuchler said.

Despite her love for the game, when Windbuchler graduates she doesn’t want to play tennis professionally.

“Very few people make it successful in tennis, it is a difficult road,” Windbuchler said. “I would love to graduate with my degree in criminology then go off to grad school.”

This story was written by Matthew Valente. He can be reached at matthew.valente@marquette.edu.