Zhang ready to break out on national stage
From her first serve on the tennis courts at Rutgers, junior Amy Zhang has turned heads with her performance.
She came out of the gate strong as a freshman, ending the year with a 21-3 singles record, a 16-8 doubles mark and the 2007-08 Targum Freshman Athlete of the Year Award.
"I think I had a good advantage because I hadn't really heard of all of these teams and I didn't know the players, so I just went into each match without knowing anything about it and just playing and not worrying about how good their record was," Zhang said.
Head coach Ben Bucca knew from the start that Zhang would be an exceptional player and would really excel in the game.
"Sometimes when it's at the crucial moments in the match, many struggle with that moment and Amy has the capability to excel in that moment," Bucca said.
Zhang began to display her talent at the age of five, when she took up the sport after watching her parents play.
Originally born in China, Zhang lived in California and Texas before finding her way to New Brunswick and Rutgers University.
"I really wanted to go to school on the East Coast because I lived in California, I lived in Texas and I'd never been to the East Coast," Zhang said. "I really liked it here."
Since joining the Rutgers tennis team, Zhang has impressed both on and off the court.
Last year, she was named MVP of the Scarlet Knights and was also a Big East selection.
Big East selections are voted upon by all of the coaches in the conference, but coaches are not allowed to vote for any player on their team.
"I was really surprised by the Big East selection," Zhang said. "It was nice to know that coaches on other teams have noticed and that they know my name."
As for being named MVP by her teammates, Zhang was honored and very happy to receive the award.
"I'm sure I speak for not only myself but also the girls on the team that Amy is a perfect example of how to lead by example and that she just very quietly but very diligently is prepared for practice, is prepared for matches and competes from the very first point right to the last," Bucca said.
Zhang was also named an ITA Scholar-Athlete for the second consecutive year for her outstanding academic performance off the court.
"A lot of times it can be tough because I'll be physically tired from tennis and when I'm physically tired, it's kind of hard to focus mentally in my classes," she said.
Despite her academic and athletic success, Zhang hopes to improve even more this year as the fall season approaches.
The only goals she has for this year is to continue her success and approach each match as she always has.
"For me, something I like to work on is getting off to a good start because a lot of the times if I'm not careful, I'll be slow or I'll quickly go down in the beginning so I think what's important for me is to try to move a lot and to be aggressive from the beginning," Zhang said.
In the future, Zhang sees her experiences with the Knights to be beneficial in more ways than one.
"The girls on the team, I'm going to be friends with them for life," she said. "The experiences that I gained from what I learned from competing and trying to set an example will definitely help me in the future when it comes to the real world."