New England

McPherron Begins NCAA Career with Two ITA Championships

James Maimonis, Manager, Media & Communications | November 03, 2021

OXFORD, GA - Transitioning from junior tournaments to NCAA tennis can be daunting for some. The level of play becomes more intense, the expectations increase, and some players simply aren’t up for the challenge or don’t put in the work. Quite the opposite has proven to be the case for Eliza McPherron in her first three months at Emory University, as she embraced her student-athlete title from the start.


McPherron, from Weston, MA, is a former New England top-10 junior player and high school tennis star who trained at Bosse Sports in Sudbury with coach Jared Flick and then at the New England Tennis Academy in Natick and at Westborough Tennis & Swim Club. She also worked with coaches Jeff Bearup and Alla Kudryavtseva. 


McPherron saw her New England 18 & under ranking reach as high as No. 8 both in the fall of 2020 and in the summer of 2021. She carried that positive momentum into college, where in her first few months of competing at Emory, she won two regional tournaments.


First, McPherron won her inaugural NCAA singles tournament – the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) South Regional Championships in Sewanee, TN. Then, just two weeks later, she captured the singles championship at the DIII ITA Cup in Rome, GA. In the ITA Cup finals, McPherron defeated good friend and fellow New Englander, Sahana Raman (Middlebury College), who also happened to be the top seed, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2.  


Following her ITA Cup win, McPherron was recognized for the first time as a University Athletic Association Athlete of the Week. 


We caught up with the Emory freshman shortly after her second title to ask her about her college experience so far and how her New England junior career prepared her for the next level. 


What have the first few months of college been like for you?


These first few months I’ve had at Emory have been so special. I was worried about finding my people and feeling at home here (as anyone would be for their first year of college) but was greeted on the very first day with so much love and excitement by the tennis team. Having people immediately accept you and want to be friends with you, even before making an impression, is a pretty incredible thing because it allowed me to relax so much faster around this group of girls. 


The first two months of college can be exciting but also feel lonely at some points as you adjust to being away from home, friends and family. I feel like I always have a home on the tennis court here because it is the space where I feel 100 percent comfortable. With that anchor, I have fully embraced my classes and so many new friends both in and outside of the team.  


Practice is still my favorite part of the day with good workouts, great tennis, and incredible players and coaches who inspire. 


Fellow New Englander Sam Falcon is a year ahead of you at Emory. What did having her on campus mean for you during your transition to college and college tennis?


Sam Falcon has been my saving grace. Sam and I were friends before Emory, but because she lived in Connecticut and I lived in Boston, we didn’t see each other regularly. I started texting her more after committing and then a lot more as school got closer. I had so many questions, arguably far too many, about classes, the tennis team, and life at Emory. She helped me with every single one of them. She would send me back long paragraphs explaining everything and given I didn’t know anyone else on campus, it was so helpful.


After arriving here, we have gotten so much closer and I consider her one of my best friends. It is so exciting to have a new experience with new people, but having one person from ‘home’ is very grounding because they understand where you came from and why you are the way you are. 


Emory has a rich tennis history (8-time NCAA Champions). Why did you want to be a part of that and how do you hope to contribute to the school's tennis legacy?  


I was so drawn to Emory because the tennis program has the three core strengths I was seeking: intensity to win, values around both athletics and academics, and a strong team culture that fosters positive, supportive relationships among its players. I didn’t think it was possible because many programs seemed to have only one or two of these dimensions. 


I was drawn to this team because both the players and coaches share my drive to compete at the highest level and constantly improve. While we all love to win, the team also strikes such a good balance between strong work ethic and having fun. The girls on the team truly love each other and are best friends. It’s also clear to see that the coaches understand the importance of building a strong culture and have worked to create and enhance it every year. 


I hope to contribute to the school’s tennis legacy by bringing positive energy to every practice and making an effort with every person who joins in the future. Both of those things are contagious and so important for our collective success and happiness. 


I think that you get out of the tennis program exactly what you put in. With such a small group of girls, one person can make a difference. I hope to always bring a positive attitude, willingness to work hard and strive to be the best I can be, both as a tennis player and as a teammate. There are so many people on my team who inspire me. I hope to make them proud and extend the legacy they have collectively built over the years, both as people and players.  


Did you have expectations heading into the two ITA events?


I didn’t have many expectations for either event as this was my first year participating. I had not encountered most of the girls in prior tournaments so didn’t have any prior expectations about their styles or levels of play. It was also our first tournament against Division III teams, so my strategy going into both tournaments was to fight for every point and find a way to break down my opponent in every match with strong point construction, movement and a winning mindset. 


How were you able to have such success at these events?


Making a firm plan with my coaches and trusting my ability to execute it was a big factor in my success. I didn’t question the plan, even if I lost a point, or several. In addition, trusting my preparation allowed me to play freely and steadily in each match. I felt much more relaxed because I knew I had done everything I needed to do, had a steady base of preparation, and I could enjoy the experience of being there and being in the moment.


What emotions were running through you after winning your first two NCAA tournaments?


It was an awesome feeling! I was so excited to be at both of these tournaments with my new teammates and play against some great opponents. I was really happy to win those tournaments because it’s what I’ve been working toward for the last several years. I felt like those weekends I was able to execute what our team has been working on for the past two months really well. You don’t always get to see the pay off of your hard work as you can’t control how you play or how your opponent plays, but seeing it all come together felt really good. 


What were you feeling knowing you were matched up with Sahana in the finals of the ITA Cup?


Sahana and I are great friends and had been texting the whole week prior. We were so excited to see one another and knew there was a chance we could meet each other in the finals if we both competed well. Having trained together for years (and twice a week this past year), I was so happy we were both in the tournament. Playing in the finals against a friend I both care about and respect, was amazing. We worked so hard for the past eight years to get better, and to make each other better, that reaching that round was really nice to see. It felt like a little bit of a pay off from all of those super early-morning and late-night hitting sessions back at home. Obviously, it is hard to play friends because we are both so competitive but also want the best for each other, but I felt like it was a great match and I love playing Sahana because she makes you think and have to work for every single point. 


What did being named an All-Conference Athlete of the Week mean to you? Did you set any individual or team goals when you arrived on campus, and if so, how does this recognition fit into the plan?


Being named athlete of the week was really cool! Arriving on campus, my main goals were actually progress based. I’ve never responded as well to award-based goals, and I find tennis much more enjoyable when I can find some way to ‘win’ daily. So coming into the tennis team, I set individual goals around my work ethic, nutrition, and attitude and team goals around building relationships with the girls, my coaches, and finding a doubles partner I could play well with. So Athlete of the Week was really exciting to receive and I felt proud to get it, but I think that the way I’ve been thinking about my tennis doesn’t make the highs too high, nor does it make the lows too low. I find tennis to be so much more enjoyable that way. 


How do you feel your experience playing in the USTA New England circuit has prepared you for NCAA tennis?


USTA New England tennis prepared me for NCAA tennis because I learned how to be resilient. Junior tournamentstennis can be difficult because you don’t have a team, and there are many ups and downs along the way that you experience independently. However, in that process you grow and learn how to dig deep inside to find the energy to compete every day, even when you lose. USTA New England made the juniors experience easier because so many of the girls in our section became close friends. It’s a small group that sticks with it over the years and we would see each other often at tournaments. The culture in our section is very respectful and supportive and that helps when we are all working so hard to improve our game. 


In addition, for several years, we were able to play together on the New England Zonals team. That was a transformative experience, as it allowed you to see the other players through a different lens. 


The USTA coaching was always supportive and collaborative and the strong values around sportsmanship and team brought us closer together. I am very grateful to my coaches who invested in me, believed in me and helped me to become a better tennis player. As I reflect on my experience with USTA New England, the combination of competitive tournaments, coaching, player development, and sportsmanship have prepared me for NCAA tennis. 

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