Tennis star Wilson shows poise beyond her years

Andy McDonough

It all rested on the shoulders of Mary Wilson.

A determined effort had led the Quinnipiac women’s tennis team to a 3-3 tie with the Siena Saints after previously falling into a 3-1 hole. This left the outcome of the Bobcats’ opening match in the hands of a freshman playing in her first collegiate singles contest.

Wilson prevailed, winning in straight sets 6-2, 6-2 against Siena junior Karina Davis in the No. 3 Flight singles slot, and the Bobcats began their season defeating a strong Saints team on Sept. 12.

“I didn’t give up. I didn’t try to let the pressure effect me. I just went out and played,” Wilson said.

Also against the Saints in the season opener, Wilson and senior captain Gabby Pasternak defeated seniors Taylor Barvoets and Julia Lebedev in No. 1 Flight doubles action.

Wilson rounded out a tremendous week by defeating Brown senior Michelle Pautler 6-3, 6-2 to capture the No. 2 Flight singles championship at the Eastern Collegiates.

The Northeast Conference honored her as the NEC women’s tennis Player of the Week on Sept. 19 after earning an undefeated record in her first six matches.

“What could you say about someone who is 6-0?” head tennis coach Mike Quitko said.

Although the talented freshman has already made a name for herself on campus, she started garnering attention back in her high school days. Wilson, from Greensburg, Pa. a suburb of Pittsburgh, attended Greater Latrobe High School where she competed in the Pennsylvania State Championships in team, singles, and doubles formats. Prior to arriving at Quinnipiac she was ranked as high as 130th nationally and fifth in the Middle States section.

Quitko saw Wilson play for the first time in 2005 at a showcase at Yale.

“I found her intelligent. I found her athletically superior and academically incredibly sound,” Quitko said.

Wilson is part of a recruiting class ranked nationally in the top 25 by the Tennis Recruiting Network.

The freshman tennis star loved Quinnipiac almost as soon as she arrived in Hamden.

“I had a great experience my first impression here,” she said. “That made me love it and want to come back.”

Wilson admits balancing a Division I sport and academics isn’t easy, but she’s ready to accept the burden.

“It’s difficult but I’m up for the challenge,” she said.

She cites her relationship with her coaching staff and teammates as a substantial reason for her success thus far.

“I’m pleased with my success, but it’s all because of the team and the coaches,” she said.

Wilson points to an especially valuable relationship with her doubles partner, Pasternak. A freshman and senior playing together is unusual, but the combination has worked well. Quitko plans to pair the two together often throughout the season.

Wilson believes the importance of her relationship with Pasternak extends well beyond the court.

“She’s shown me how to be a better player and a better person, both at the same time,” Wilson said.

Quitko emphasized that Wilson has shown strong work ethic in a college tennis atmosphere where the hardest workers are usually the winners.

“Mary is a hard-working young lady,” he said.

Despite her success, Wilson is focused on getting even better.

“I think there’s always room for improvement,” she said.

Wilson has forged a reputation not only as an excellent player but as a willing student of the game in her short career at Quinnipiac. “She responds extremely well to coaching both during the match and at other times,” Quitko said.

Her talent and determination bode well for both her future success and that of her tennis team.

“I think this year we have a great group and I’m excited to see where that takes us,” Wilson said.