Aussie freshman serves up tennis fury
Even on a day off from her busy schedule, UALR freshman Michaela McShane has pep in her step and looks like she is on her way to the courts.
She came all the way from Melbourne, Australia to spend her first semester at UALR as the fourth and final freshman on the 2011-2012 class roster.
McShane began playing tennis at the early age of 7, following in her mother’s footsteps. “My mom used to play mid-league ladies competitions and she was enjoying it,” she said, “so I decided to start playing tennis myself.” What started out as one group lesson a week gradually progressed to a highly decorated preparatory career at Star of Sea College in Australia.
Although she continued to play tennis while beginning college in Melbourne, she found it hard because Australia doesn’t have a college system that takes sports as seriously the Unites States. “I always thought it was a great experience and opportunity to play tennis and get an education at the same time in a different country,” she said. So when her tennis was able to get in touch with Abby Wilson, UALR women’s head tennis coach, in May, she could not say no.
“This is my first time overseas,” she said, “I had never left Australia before coming here. It was a pretty huge decision.”
McShane has only been at UALR – the only place she has visited in the U.S. – for two months, but she seems to be acclimating to the environment swiftly. “I like Little Rock so far,” she said, “everyone is very friendly and welcoming. I would like to see more of the city though, as I haven’t had the chance yet.”
Although she is enjoying her experience studying abroad and playing tennis, there are some things that she can’t help but get homesick for. “I miss my mom’s cooking, seeing family and friends, and Melbourne city is just so different from here.”
Like most college freshman, she hasn’t decided on a major, but she said she’s hoping to go into some form of marketing. She is modest and speaks realistically when it comes to the prospect of a professional tennis career, but said if she had the chance, she would definitely take it.
“I hope to have a full-time job, but I still want to plays heaps of tennis, and … I want to travel the world,” she said.
When she is not going toclasses and practices, she said she enjoys hanging out and “chillin’” (yes, Australians say it too). She said her most recently acquired hobby was hearing comments about her accent and Australian staples, such as kangaroos and that one “Men at Work” song. Her favorite professional tennis players are Andy Roddick from the U.S. and Kim Clijsters from Belgium. But tennis is not the only sport she enjoys. She has been a member of cross-country, volleyball, soccer and netball teams and is an avid fan of Australian football (AFL).
Superstitions can run wild in sports but McShane said she doesn’t have any top-secret pre-game rituals or specific music she listens to before a match, but she does have her preferences. “I like to be relaxed and focused right before my matches, but I also listen to upbeat music before I warm up so I’m pumped up and ready!”
McShane has made a positive impression both on and off the court.
“Michaela has everything we hope to see out of our student-athletes at UALR,” said Patrick Newton, UALR’s sports information assistant. “In addition to being a model teammate, she’s a hard worker on the court and in the classroom. We’re all very excited to see what she’s able to accomplish in her time on campus.”