Sofie Oyen of the two-time-defending National-Champion women’s tennis team took a look at the courts at the Ring Tennis Complex at Linder Stadium and glanced back. She smiled after being asked about the possibility of winning National Titles in each of her four years as a Florida Gator.
“It’s a new team now, but we did beat the #1 team recently and that means something,” said the 5’3” Junior from Belgium. “I think we’re all ready to play for and win the national championship, but we’ll see how it goes. You never know how the other teams are going to play; maybe the other team will have a great match. We’ll see, we’ll see.”
Oyen is a mainstay on a Gator tennis team that is making a case for itself as a juggernaut under head coach Roland Thornqvist. The Intercollegiate Tennis Association took notice of Oyen during her first two seasons, naming her their preseason #1 singles player, the 10th different Gator since the 1988 season to earn the No. 1 national singles ranking. Despite the lofty expectations, the 21-year-old Oyen isn’t fazed by the limelight.
“It motivates me. There’s always going to be a little bit of pressure, but I’ve dealt with it well and hope I can play the way I have the whole season,” said the Event Management major.
Success as a Gator isn’t new to Oyen; as a freshman she went 9-0 in SEC singles competition and as a sophomore compiled a 30-5 overall record. However, Oyen believes her success was not achieved alone. She says her former doubles partner Allie Will, who graduated after the 2012 season, was one of the keys behind her growth from timid freshman to one of college tennis’s top players. Oyen said Will’s leadership abilities and mental toughness provided an example for her to emulate.
Now a junior, Oyen has become one of the team leaders herself but feels the role is made easier by the maturity of her younger teammates.
“They know a lot already about the matches and our style of play, but if they need help they can always look at us [the juniors and seniors] and see what we’re doing,” said Oyen.
The younger players are a big part of realizing Oyen’s goal of four straight national titles, and if they follow Sofie Oyen, that goal may be within grasp.