Rising sophomore and All-American Irina Falconi has agreed to blog for RamblinWreck.com this summer. She will keep Yellow Jacket fans up-to-date on her training as she prepares for her second season on the Flats.
July 26, 2009
Greetings everyone! Please forgive me for not writing after the Finals in Atlanta last weekend, and not writing this whole week. But, I promise I’ll make it up to you guys! 🙂
So, the finals. It may be old news by now, but it’s good to have a record of what exactly happened during the match. So, as I mentioned before, I was going to be playing against Jennifer Elie with half of Atlanta cheering her on, against my seven people cheering squad. Let’s just put it this way, in the first set of the match, there were maybe two claps throughout it! It was unbelievable! You could have really heard a pin drop due to the silence. Eventually, in the second set, she won the first game of the match and then got a major clapping session. It pumped me up. I was ready for it, and I wanted them to cheer for her. After a couple of games going back and forth, she breaks me to get the score to 4-4. This was the point where I had to attack. I didn’t want to play a third set because I knew that she had won all her three setters prior to this match. So I went Full Throttle and broke her in a really close game. Then came the most important game for me—the game to serve for the match. Luckily I had been serving well preceding this moment, so I did have confidence in my serve. Didn’t matter that she had broken me a couple of times before, I was ready. After leveling the score at 30 all, I knew I had to throw in a big one. After she missed the return, I had my first match point. After a really good first serve, and a solid return from her, I mishit a ball that barely touched the net and was going to get out of position; she reached for a slice even though she thought I was going to her forehand, and dumps it in the net for the match. After some very gracious words from the tournament Director, Marcus Vickers, he handed over the microphone to us and we shared a few words just acknowledging how wonderful the crowd had been the whole week, and how well the tournament had been run. After about seven hundred pictures, I was finally able to sit down and stretch while talking with Coach Shelton and his family about the match and the whole week in general. It was an absolutely great experience!!
After the Match
One of the many surprises from the Atlanta tournament, was my teammate Amanda McDowell. We chatted for a while before deciding to have lunch over at Tin Drum, a very nice Asian Cafe that was near Sasha and Amanda’s place. Prior to this, I had already asked Sasha whether or not I could crash at her place till I left for Missouri, and she had agreed that it would be great! Believe it or not, after getting lunch and arriving at Sasha’s place, the only thing I could think of doing was going in the pool and watching TV. So much for celebrating, huh?
What a great day because it was my official first day off in about three weeks (not including traveling days.) As much as I would have enjoyed staying home, I was a trooper and decided to watch my teammates train with Coach Shelton at Tech for about two hours. Love of the game? Absolutely. After that, Coach Shelton and I went to have lunch to talk more in depth about the match and what had been my thoughts the whole week. It was a great lunch! The next day Coach would be going to Tennessee to the National Clay Court Championships in Memphis. I knew I wouldn’t be seeing Coach for a while so I was happy to have gone to Jason’s Deli with him (it IS my favorite lunch place…) That night, in honor of my victory, I decided to treat myself with some Brewster’s Ice Cream after going to the Living Room with a couple of the girls! Strawberry and Toffee with Caramel—indescribable.
It was back to work. Guillermo Gomez, one of the guys on the Tech men’s tennis team, had agreed to train with me and Sasha. After about two hours of some intense drills and points, Sasha and I headed to the weight room to work out with Tiffany Allen, our Strength Coach. It felt great to be back in the weight room. After a tough circuit and some sprints, Sasha and I decided to head back home, and what do you know— watch some more TV! NCIS, Law and Order, and Royal Pains were all the shows that were consuming my time and some of her time (she has summer classes which meant that she was balancing the TV watching and studying equally.) I did end up cooking dinner for us that night, so I felt like I had done something USEFUL.
On Wednesday, the schedule for me was pretty much the same. After tennis and working out, I went home to have some leftovers from the night before, and I felt that the food tasted better the day after. Wednesday was also the birthday of one of our friends, so we knew what we were going to be doing that night. After a nice barbeque on the grill, we went to the pool for about three hours! It was an awesome time and Lauren really enjoyed all the cakes that were made and were brought to her.
I decided that I wasn’t going to work out, but I would work out the next day so I played a little later and for a little longer, and then I went home…to read (not really, more like watch House). Thursday night I went out to dinner with a friend of mine which was great other than the fact that I managed to get sour cream all over my black shirt. It was quite a sight, let’s just put it that way. After dinner, I met with one of my good friends to talk a about life in general. We both were sleepy so we decided to end our night fairly early.
Friday and Saturday Dawn
The last day in Atlanta! So on Friday, I decided to continue with the same routine- tennis followed by workout, followed by some TV- I mean, cleaning and cooking (I did actually do those as well). At about 7 p.m. I went to dinner to a very authentic Spanish restaurant where I tried octopus for the first time in my life. I can’t really describe what it tasted like because I did end up eating it even though I thought I was going to throw it up once it was in my mouth. Yes to courtesy!
After some laundry and many goodbyes, I knew I had to get some shut eye if I was planning on waking up at 3 a.m. for my 5:30 a.m. flight. A friend was nice enough to get himself out of bed and drop me off at the airport at 4 a.m. After a quick sweep through security, I was ready to get on the plane and sleep. Unfortunately my flight wasn’t a non-stop flight. I made a stop in Charlotte airport before I reached Kansas City. When I arrived in Charlotte, I fell asleep, and I was very lucky to have a girl approach and tap me on the shoulder asking me whether I was heading to Kansas City. I owe her big time!
So this week it will be Missouri! I arrived at around 9:30 a.m. and waited for my teammate Viet Ha “Christina” Ngo’s flight to arrive at around 11:30 a.m., so we could share the forty-five dollar fare for the shuttle from the airport to the site. After a nice Quiznos lunch and some work on the laptop, we were on our way to St. Joseph. When we arrived to the site, it was empty. We were the only ones there! After a couple of hours, and a few hours of napping from my part, the crowd finally started swooshing in. I signed my name in the qualifying draw, and since I was one out of the main draw, I was able to sneak out of qualis and directly into the main draw. After a friendly ride from a new found friend, I was lounging in the nice accommodation of the Stoney Creek Inn.
As for a little reflection on the last few weeks, it’s amazing to analyze and reflect on the different cultures that I have confronted with along the way while traveling throughout America. Granted, the traditions and cultures wouldn’t be as different as say, Cambodia, but the way of living and people, varies so much from town to town. Let’s start with Grapevine, Texas. When I was there, I didn’t meet a single soul that didn’t offer me help or a hand. Of course I was spoiled and stayed with the most awesome housing family in Southlake, Texas, but the way of life is truly different.
Being raised in New York, surrounded by constant noise and people, the ranches and farms that I saw in Texas just made me think how different my life would have been if I were to have been raised there. When I went to the lake house with the Pattersons, I met a fellow who was talking to a young boy and I about how far he lived from the lake: “I’m not too far away from here. It’s about two and a half hours. Not bad.” Last time I checked, two and a half hours is not close by. As miniscule as that comment may seem, it stuck with me, just because of how different the response would have been from a city person, myself included. The accents, the food, the customs, all were great additions that made my experience that much better. This summer has not just been about getting fitter and better in tennis, it’s also been about going to new places, adapting quickly to the surroundings around you, and most importantly, becoming more knowledgeable in meeting new people with an open mind.
Same feeling occurred in Atlanta. Sure I was coming back to my college town, sure I was familiar with what Atlanta was like, but Lithonia? I had never heard of Lithonia before the last tournament. Sugar Creek Tennis Center? That center is probably one of my favorite, if not my ABSOLUTE favorite tennis sites that I’ve ever been to. The view and people were just at another level. After this tournament, in St. Joseph, Missouri, I know for a fact that I will feel the same way regarding the new found love of an unfamiliar place. Let’s see what St. Joseph shows me, I’m bound to be surprised.
So, I just finished my second day in St. Joseph. I just want to start off with saying that I have never in my life been offered a ride from a complete stranger—till today. I woke up early in the morning to have breakfast and head to the Ramada Inn where the shuttle to the site is based at. As I was leaving the driveway of our hotel and nearing the intersection to cross the street, a man calls out from his car and says “Miss! Miss!” I look back thinking that maybe I had dropped something from my tennis bag or something, so I look back, and he says, “Do you need a ride?” I was in complete shock, but my response sounded innocent—“I’m good sir, thanks a lot though!”
After that little incident, I get to the Ramada Inn, and my main man Ron gives a couple of girls a ride to the site. I had agreed yesterday to warm up my teammate, Christina Ngo, so after the warm up I sat underneath a tree with a generous amount of shade. After watching Christina dominate, I played again with Yasmin Schnack, a rising senior from UCLA. After our hit and some delicious Panera lunch, I arrived back at the site to watch Christina play her second match, and for my third hit of the day. I played for about 45 minutes with a 15-year old Scottish girl, Robyn Beddow. Very nice girl and a very smooth player. After our intense hit, my body told me it was time to go back to the hotel and relax. Say hello to Quesadilla Burger sponsored by Applebee’s for dinner! Yes!!