Where Are They Now: Featuring Julia Cancio
James Maimonis, Communications and Engagement Coordinator | August 2, 2018
‘Where Are They Now’ is a monthly feature that highlights former New England junior players who have continued on to play NCAA tennis. We will be catching up with players currently competing or have recently competed at all NCAA levels across the country. Our August highlight is Julia Cancio.
CONCORD, MA- Julia Cancio, of Concord, MA, was a four-year player, captain and national champion at Williams College, one of the most prestigious women’s tennis programs in the country. She graduated this May as the third winningest player of all time at Williams while helping the team capture its 9th and 10th NCAA DIII Championships. Julia capped off her senior year by winning the NCAA Doubles Championship with partner Juli Raventos.
USTA New England caught up with Julia to learn more about her successful NCAA career and how New England junior tournaments prepared her to be the player she is today.
First off, winning the NCAA DIII Doubles Championships must have been an amazing feeling. ADVERTISEMENT Talk about the emotions you were feeling after you won and the incredible run you and Juli went on throughout the tournament.
It was sort of a blur when it happened because we were obviously exhausted, but I think that following the team loss in the semifinal, Juli and I were even more motivated to win the doubles title together. We had been talking about the individual championships all year (alongside having the goal of winning the team championship of course), so when we were able to come away with the gold it was just super exciting for us, our coach and our team. Winning the final in a comeback fashion against two amazing opponents was especially thrilling. The match was so long and we were trailing pretty much the whole time, so being able to win in the end was really amazing.
You and Juli went undefeated this past spring and 33-2 during the 2017-18 season. What was the key to your continued doubles success?
Both Juli and I have played in the doubles lineup for four years, and I think that as a result, one of our greatest assets was experience. By our senior years, we both knew how important it was to fight for every point and work together as a team. I also think that we both have great court sense, especially in doubles, and move really well together.
I understand the success you had this season didn’t come easy. Explain some of the ups and downs you endured and how you ultimately felt this season went.
Like any other season, this season was filled with tons of challenges, and this year the team as a whole faced more obstacles than in my three previous years combined. We had injuries, illnesses and a new coach to get used to (even though she's amazing, it still takes time to adjust). I was lucky enough to have three senior co-captains with me this year, and we did absolutely everything we could to have a great season even when all odds were stacked against us. Although it was disappointing to get third in the team tournament, I was so proud of myself and my teammates for overcoming everything that was thrown at us. And then to win the doubles title was really a dream come true. My freshman year I was supposed to compete but my partner and I had to pull out, so to come back to that stage and win was really the perfect culmination of my career.
Heading into your freshman year, Williams already had 8 National Titles under its belt. Were there more nerves or excitement from you knowing you’d be joining such a storied program?
I think anyone would be a little nervous joining a team with such an amazing history, but I was mostly just excited to have the chance to go for the NCAA title with my teammates. The year before I came in was the first year Williams had lost nationals in seven years (they had won six in a row before that), so when I got there everyone was so excited and so hungry to recapture the title.
What does it mean to you now that you’ve left your mark as one of the most successful players in school history and helped bring two more titles to Williamstown?
From the start, I always wanted to be the kind of player and person that my teammates could look to and believe in more than I wanted to win titles. I'm obviously extremely proud of all of the trophies and accomplishments I've contributed to, but I think I'm even more proud of the hard work and dedication that went into those things. It means everything to me that I was able to fight alongside some amazing teammates for four years and succeed with their support and the support of our alumni.
You finished third all time in program history in both doubles and overall wins. Has that sunk in yet for you?
Not really. I was counting my doubles wins for a while because I knew I was close to 100, but for the most part I tried not to pay attention to how many wins and losses I had.
What have been your best memories from your Williams tennis career?
I have so many memories overall of just being with the team-- team dinners, van rides, sprints, and other things (twice we smashed a piñata as a team...it was very therapeutic), but I think my favorite memory was actually our semifinal match against Middlebury my junior year. We were playing them indoors on four courts (it was 101 degrees in the indoor facility) and went down 2-1 after doubles. I was playing 6 singles at the time, so me and my teammate Mia, who was playing 5 singles, had to wait for courts to open up. Quickly, two of our teammates lost, and we went down 4-1 overall. When I went onto my court to start my match, Linda Shin, a senior, was down 1-6, 0-3 and things were looking pretty grim for us. I won my match pretty quickly (running pretty much solely on adrenaline) and Linda went on to save three match points, cramp and win her match. Mia clinched and just like that we had won a place in the finals (which we also won 5-4). It was an absolutely epic match and I will never forget it as long as I live.
What awards or honors that you’ve received throughout your tennis career have meant the most to you?
If I had to choose, I'd say being selected as a captain was a great honor, as well as being named an ITA scholar athlete. Academics are really important to me like I said, so I was glad I was able to balance both school and tennis at Williams and succeed at both.
You majored in Japanese & Art Studio and studied abroad in Japan. What initially drew you to the Japanese culture and then the major?
My high school actually has a sister school in a small town in northern Japan called Nanae. My senior year of high school I was lucky enough to travel there and do an exchange for a few weeks. Although I was unable to speak Japanese at the time, I made so many amazing friends and memories. I really wanted to go back one day able to speak the language, so I started taking classes when I got to Williams. I ended up studying abroad and kind of just fell into the major.
What are your summer/post-college plans? Do they involve tennis in any capacity or are you sticking to something in your field of study?
This summer I decided to stay home and spend time with my family. I'm actually coaching at the New England Tennis Center summer camp currently being held in Acton, MA (close to my hometown of Concord). After that, I hope to work in Japan, maybe doing graphic design.
You had success in both high school tennis and New England junior tennis before college. How involved were you in both and how much did they each prepare you for college tennis?
In high school, academics were always my priority, so I tried really hard to be as involved as I could in that as well as in the junior circuit. I didn't really have the opportunity to travel to many national tournaments, but I did play a ton in the section. I think New England in particular does a good job preparing juniors for college because of the section's emphasis on doubles. Having doubles-only weekends (and having doubles count for 25% of your singles ranking) means that players have to play doubles to improve their ranking. I found that my experience in doubles coming into college was something that was not universal, and I was super grateful for it.
High school tennis also prepared me well for college tennis because of the team atmosphere. I had a great time on my high school team, and the camaraderie between me and my teammates was great.
What were some of your best memories from USTANE competition, and did you learn anything throughout your junior career that has really stuck with you until now?
I think my favorite memories were definitely at Zonals. I really love team tennis so that was always the highlight of my year in terms of tennis. I learned a ton playing juniors. All those tournaments really teach you to be tough and stand your ground. And they also teach you how to fail and succeed gracefully. I'm grateful that I was able to learn those lessons at a young age through playing tennis. I think they'll serve me well for the rest of my life.
For a recap of Julia’s NCAA Doubles Championship, click here.
To learn more about Williams Women’s Tennis, click here.