Q&A with Thelma Sepulveda

Sepulveda returns a shot in a victory over University of Portland. Photo courtesy of Danny Barnts.

Thelma Sepulveda is a first-year student from San Ysidro, CA, and she plays for the PLNU women’s tennis team. As a first-year, she currently has a 5-4 singles record, playing at both the No. 2 singles and No. 3 singles level. She also plays No. 3 doubles with sophomore Rachel Whittington, and the duo has a 6-4 record on the season. Sepulveda spoke with The Point about her unusual freshman season.

The Point: Tell us about the differences between high school tennis and college tennis. How have you adjusted so far in your first year? 

Thelma Sepulveda: I think it has been very different playing college tennis than high school because of the rigorous training schedule. Apart from tennis, we also have weights and conditioning twice a week that help us get stronger physically. Being part of a team has been such a cool experience, but for me, managing my time has been super difficult. Additionally, college courses have been very difficult in comparison to high school, so it has been a little tough adjusting.

TP: How have your teammates and coaches helped you adjust?

TS: My teammates and coach have been very welcoming and are always there for me if I ever need any help. 

TP: What has it been like being an athlete at PLNU this year when everything is unpredictable and different?

TS: I was very happy to even have the opportunity this year to play because I know many schools in the country canceled their sports this season due to the ongoing pandemic. It has been a bit hard always being on edge and not knowing what will come next, but my coach and the school have been doing a great job of keeping us safe and communicating any updates regarding our season. 

TP: Walk us through a typical day for you. What does a day with practice and class look like and what are game days like?

TS: On a typical practice day, I will start my day by having a filling breakfast and then attend my classes either on Zoom or in person in the mornings. After that, I will finish some homework and eat lunch. I will then have tennis practice in the evening for two hours, and twice a week, we will have weights and conditioning. Following practice, I will have dinner either with my family or with my teammates and will complete my homework for the day after getting back home.  

On a typical game day, I make sure I have communicated with my professors that I will be missing class. I also try to get all my tennis equipment ready the day before so that I am not too overwhelmed in the morning. I ensure I eat well the night before a match by eating carbs and also have a filling breakfast to have enough energy for my match. I will usually finish some homework before heading to campus. Before a match, I usually go to the training room to get any tape or receive any treatment for injuries. Then, I am all set for our tennis match warm-up at the courts.  

TP: Was it hard playing without any fans watching in person? How has it felt to play in front of people again?

TS: Fans were not allowed to attend matches the majority of the season up until only last week. It felt very strange not having my family and friends there to support me, but PLNU offered free live streaming services, so my family could watch from home. The last few games with fans at the courts have been amazing because it feels as if things are going back to normal, and I love having people watching me compete. 

TP: What are some of the highlights of the year for you?

TS: Some highlights of the year for me have been being able to be on such a beautiful campus and making so many new friends from all over the world. Being able to play college tennis has been such an incredible experience and I feel so lucky to be part of this team.

By: Andrew Hansen