First year Dana Culpepper was named Cyclone of the Week for March 27 through April 2, for the commitment, resilience and growth she demonstrated while playing for the Mills tennis team.
Culpepper began playing tennis during her freshman year of high school, and continued to play for her high school team until her junior year. She began playing tennis again when she started her first year at Mills College during Fall 2016.
“I started playing tennis because it’s hard for me to stay active if I’m not in a class or on a team,” Culpepper said. “So I thought I would give tennis a shot, and I was like ‘Hey, I really like this!’”
Head Tennis Coach Tony Canedo is impressed by Culpepper’s drive and growth throughout the year, considering that she’s only a first year.
“She’s developing very quickly and has been thrown into the top six which is very competitive play, which has kept her perspective and her head up,” Canedo said. “It’s hard to ask for a freshman coming in, but she’s done really well.”
Canedo is not the only one who noticed Culpepper’s rapid growth. Grace Deaton, one of Culpepper’s teammates, is also impressed by her improvement.
“Dana always wants to get better and actively tries to get better,” Deaton said. “She’s committed, and she’s getting really good.”
Despite her drive and skill, Culpepper still finds the mental aspect of the game, like staying focused, difficult.
“The hardest part of the sport is not getting in my head,” Culpepper said. “Because when you’re by yourself on the court in the middle of the game, it’s really easy to get frustrated, and that’s never productive.”
Although staying calm and focused during the game is a challenge for Culpepper, Canedo believes that her mental strength is one of her greatest attributes.
“Her biggest strength has got to be her mental fortitude and her resilience,” Canedo said.
Canedo is proud of Culpepper’s quick improvement and dedication, but also enjoys coaching her for many other reasons.
“She’s very coachable and has a very high athletic IQ, so there’s not a lot of explaining to do,” Canedo said. “I think she can digest a lot of information herself, which in tennis you have to do.”
Along with Culpepper’s aptitude for the sport, Canedo appreciates her positive personality.
“She’s a joy to be around personally, so that makes it easier to coach,” Canedo said.
As the tennis season comes to a close, Culpepper looks towards the future. She hopes to continue to grow as a tennis player at Mills, and hopes to continue to play after her days as a Cyclone.
“I definitely want to continue playing for as long as I’m at Mills, because I feel like I have a lot of room for improvement, considering this is only my first year,” Culpepper said. “It’s something that I really enjoy and it’s a way to stay active, so I could see myself playing casually into the rest of my life.”