Northwestern junior Lauren Lui
© NU Athletic Communications
Lauren Lui in action
© NU Athletic Communications
Lauren Lui, a junior from Houston, is currently the No. 1 doubles and No. 4 singles player on the top-ranked Northwestern women's tennis team. The Big Ten's Player of the Week for the week of March 10, Lui has been a consistent force for the Wildcats this season, winning all of her doubles matches and three of her four singles matches at the ITA Indoor Team Championships last month. She also posted a 4-1 mark at the prestigious National Collegiate Tennis Classic in January.
Last season, Lui was an All-Big Ten selection, she was named Academic All-Big Ten, and she qualified into both the NCAA singles and doubles tournaments. She recently took time from her busy schedule to answer some questions for USTA.com.
USTA.com: You were one of the top recruits in the class of 2006. Why did you choose Northwestern?
Lauren Lui: I chose Northwestern because it had so much to offer. I knew I was going to improve my game and get a great education at the same time. It seemed like an easy decision. Moreover, I wanted to experience something new. I’ve lived in Texas my whole life, and going someplace cold would really be different, and it was.
USTA.com: What advice would you give to juniors on the recruiting process?
Lauren Lui: I would tell them to take their time and embrace the process. It can be stressful, but doing all of your research is key if you want to pick the right school. Also, make sure you find a team that you get along with because you spend a lot of quality time with each other.
USTA.com: You had a great weekend at the ITA National Team Indoor, winning the team title and also coming home with an all-tournament team nod at No. 1 doubles and the ITA Sportsmanship Award. Has the reality sunk in?
Lauren Lui: It really hasn’t. I always thought winning this title would be a big deal, and it was but not to the same degree I imagined. We are very proud of this accomplishment, but as a team we aren’t satisfied. This title has only made us want to work harder so we can get that much closer to the NCAA title in May.
USTA.com: This is the first title by a “northern” or “cold-weather” school? What kind of statement have you and your team made? What’s next?
Lauren Lui: I think we have shown the nation that we are a strong team and have a great chance at the NCAA title. Our next step is to continue working hard and focusing on each match ahead.
USTA.com: Playing a majority of your spring matches indoors, it is always tough to transition outdoors for NCAAs. What do you do to ease that transition?
Lauren Lui: I definitely think it is tougher for us to transition outside, but it is something we have to do in order to achieve our goal of winning NCAAs. In order to help with the transition, we work harder on our fitness so we’ll be prepared for every obstacle we encounter. By doing this, we’ll be mentally and physically tougher, so playing inside or outside won’t affect us.
USTA.com: You have had some great coaches: Head Coach and ITA National Coach of the Year Claire Pollard, Dave Mullins (currently the head coach at Oklahoma) and Jackie Holden. How has each of them contributed to your game?
Lauren Lui: They have all been very helpful to my game in so many different ways. Claire has brought out the more competitive side of me that I never knew I had. She has made me physically and mentally tougher by pushing me to limits I didn’t know I could reach. And because of this, I have improved my game each year. Dave always helped me on the sidelines during my matches. He would be very supportive and encouraging whenever I was on the court. Moreover, he played so many matches against me over the years, and that helped me tremendously when preparing for duals. Lastly, Jackie has helped me in my service game and my slices. Now, I feel more confident than ever in those particular shots.
USTA.com: What match do you look forward to each spring?
Lauren Lui: I really look forward to our match against Notre Dame. We are two of the best teams in the Midwest and always have great, competitive matches. Each team has a lot of respect for one another, and this really brings out the best in each team.
USTA.com: Northwestern is well known for its academics. Is it difficult to balance all your classes and schoolwork with your tennis? How do you do it?
Lauren Lui: It is difficult balancing school and tennis. It’s always the hardest when traveling on weekends because homework is the last thing you want to do. However, I think playing lots of tournaments in high school has taught me how to manage my time. In college, it’s the same thing. If you can manage your time well and multi-task, balancing school and tennis becomes much easier.
USTA.com: On the Northwestern official athletic site, your major is listed as Learning and Organizational Change. Can you tell us more about that?
Lauren Lui: Yes. I get this question a lot. Learning and Organizational Change is the people side of business. It explores how organizations and the individuals within them use knowledge and learning to create and respond to change within their environments. It has become very popular over the years, and a lot of people go into consulting and human resource work when they graduate.
USTA.com: Who is your funniest teammate? Most serious?
Lauren Lui: Teammate? How about teammates? All of my teammates are jokesters.
USTA.com: If you could use one word to sum up your team, what would it be?
Lauren Lui: Goofballs!
USTA.com: What is your favorite thing about college tennis and about being a Wildcat?
Lauren Lui: My favorite thing about college tennis is the team aspect of it. In juniors, it was always about you, but in college you have seven other teammates encouraging and supporting you. Dual matches are always fun because every point is important. You are doing it for your team. I love it. My favorite thing about being a Wildcat is just representing Northwestern. I’m proud to wear purple, and the support we have from our staff and our fans is great.
USTA.com: What are your goals for yourself and for your team this season?
Lauren Lui: My personal goal is to become an All-American and to win the doubles title. As for my team, our goal is to win NCAAs.
USTA.com: Any desire to try the pro tour after college?
Lauren Lui: Possibly. I will see how I feel after I graduate. I might try it out for a year and see how it goes. If it’s not for me, I know I always have a Northwestern degree to fall back on.
USTA.com: What advice do you have for young players who are planning to attend college?
Lauren Lui: I would tell them to cherish the experience because it really flies by. I’m a junior now and can’t believe it. It’s the best time of your life, and you meet a lot of great people in the process. Take advantage of every opportunity you get because it only comes by once.