Samantha Asch couldn’t wait to start her college tennis career at Wake Forest but soon learned that she had some growing up to do.
Finishing up at Princeton Day School in December, 2012, six months ahead of her classmates, tennis standout Asch arrived at Wake in January and plunged into her schoolwork and hit the court with the Demon Deacons.
“The work was tough and I learned a lot,” said Asch, a four-time Mercer County Tournament singles champion during her storied PDS career.
“I was the youngest person at Wake which isn’t easy. It was an adjustment. I was on a team with a lot of upperclassmen. I made the team but we weren’t so good and the coach wanted me to redshirt.”
Putting those hard-earned lessons to good use, Asch was primed to get into action last September.
“Nothing was a surprise in the fall,” said Asch. “It was like playing the best players in juniors everyday. There is competition just to make the lineup.”
Asch proved to be up to the competition, playing well in the season-opening William and Mary Invitational.
“It was really good,” said Asch, who combined with classmate Luisa Fernandez to win their doubles flight at the competition.
“I got my first win off of a ranked player, she was #51. It was a good win for me, I got a big lead and then almost choked it away.”
In order to be a winning player at the college level, Asch quickly realized that she had to get bigger physically.
“I am one of the smaller players and I was weak,” acknowledged Asch. “I worked a lot on my strength, the coaches really pushed that. I did weight training and running.”
Getting ill last fall weakened Asch and stunted her progress. “I wasn’t cleared until a week before the spring season started,” said Asch. “I was thrown into the lineup at No. 2. I lost my first two matches and four of my first five; it was discouraging. I was a little rusty and lacking strength.”
Once she regained her strength, Asch produced a solid spring campaign, going 14-19 in singles and compiling a 21-8 record with Fernandez in doubles.
“The doubles went really well, we had some really good streaks,” said Asch. “I think we won four in a row at one point. Doubles was important. We won a lot of matches 4-3 and the doubles point turned out to be the clincher.”
Clinching a 4-1 win over Maryland in the ACC tournament proved to be a highlight for Asch.
“I honestly didn’t think I was playing well that day,” recalled Asch, who won 6-3, 6-3 at No. 4 singles and combined with Fernandez for a come-from-behind 8-7 win in doubles.
“We were down 7-4 in doubles and our third doubles was losing so we knew we had to win it to get the point. In singles, our No. 3 was getting killed and our No. 1 lost so I knew I had to win my match. It was our first win in the ACC tournament in five years.”
Along the way, Asch posted some other big wins. “One weekend, I played at No. 2 and we played Miami and I beat a highly ranked player who had wins over some big players,” said Asch, referring to her 4-6, 7-6 (4), 1-0 (8) victory over Miami’s Clementina Riobueno. “I played my best match of the year. My doubles team reached the final of an invitational in California.”
Being at her best at the college level has required Asch to raise the level of her game, physically and mentally.
“College is a whole different ball game,” said Asch. “January to May is unreal. You are out there every week and you always have to have your game. It is extremely mental, there is a lot of pressure on you.”
Withstanding that pressure has Asch aiming for some big things over the rest of her Wake Forest career.
“I feel like I am a more solid player,” said Asch, who is planning to be a math/business double major.
“I think being an All-American would be my ultimate goal. The season was a huge improvement for the team and we want to keep getting better.”