A Perfect Match for YSU

Mararita Sadovnikova returns a serve in practice. Sadovnikova, a senior, has been named to a First Team All-Horizon League player three times.

Margarita Sadovnikova is a strong-willed, driven young woman who is at the center of a team chasing a championship. She is in the process of competing in her final season as a Penguins tennis player and wants to make it count.

Sadovnikova is originally from Ufa, Russia, where her roots in tennis began. Since she was 4 1/2 years old, Sadovnikova has been dedicated to improving her game and making her family proud.

“I never had a doubt that I wanted to continue playing tennis. It actual[ly] was crucial when I realized maybe after high school I might have to stop. Then I found out about the program Study Abroad and getting a scholarship to play tennis, so I was really excited,” Sadovnikova said.

Since her early days as a tennis player, Sadovnikova has evolved her game into one that allows her to stay more focused. She’s achieved success from leaving her emotions off the tennis court.

“In juniors, I was like, emotional; [I] always wanted to win and would never accept [to] lose. Since I got here to college, I think I’ve learned a lot and improved more, not in my game as a physical game, I improved more in my mental [game],” Sadovnikova said. “I learned more, how to react and how to act. After every single [loss], there is room to learn more and just improve. I learned how to balance my emotions and how to control [them] and stay positive. The way you react influences the entire team.”

As far as her team is concerned, Sadovnikova’s influence is extremely encouraging. Marta Burak, her teammate and doubles partner, sees Sadovnikova as positive support system.

“Margarita is a very good, hard-work[ing] player. She always plays till the last point, and fights all the way through her match till it’s done. It doesn’t matter for her who she is playing; [whether] it’s a weak player or strong player. She will always try to play as good as she can, and bring a win for [the] team and herself,” Burak said.

Mickael Sopel, her head coach, said Sadovnikova is an important asset to the team as well as a role model to younger players.

“Margarita is a great student-athlete and someone who, as a coach, you feel lucky to have as part of your team. By her high level of play and her will to succeed on court and in the classroom, she is a great example and source of motivation for the other girls,” Sopel said. “Underclassmen look up to her and she provides the advice and help you could expect from a senior currently playing number [one] for the team.”

After she moved to the United States to begin her collegiate tennis career at Youngstown State University, she had more singles wins than any freshman since 2004. She has been a selection for the First-Team All-Horizon League team three times and last year helped lead the women’s team to their second Horizon League Championship game in school history. This season she hopes to finish off what her team started last year.

“As a team, we expect good things to happen. We did really well last season; we got runners up. It was really amazing because the season before, we didn’t even make the tournament. So last year it was runners up and it was two games from actual[ly] being champions and that makes us work harder,” Sadovnikova said.

Sadovnikova’s drive to succeed was brought to life by the people closest to her.

“The think most influential person was my mom. Since I was little, since she first brought me to [the] tennis court and everything else, she was pushing me to be better person like [in] school, sports, other languages, friendship, [and] everything that relates to life,” Sadovnikova said. “My mom was the biggest influence on me, but same as my dad, obviously. He was not as involved in my sports career, but he was always there for me outside the court. My mom, dad and sister are three people that have been great examples.”

Despite her parents still being overseas and her sister being eight hours away at the University of Rhode Island, Sadovnikova’s mother, father and sister are still her strongest supporters.

“I know no matter how I do, I know they are always going to be there for me. If I have a bad match, it’s not like they’re going to [say], ‘Oh my god, what are you doing?’ When I have an awesome match, it’s obvious I get all congratulations they say how good I am, but at the same time they still tell me there is room to work on [my game] and be [a] better person every day,” Sadovnikova said. “I look at
what they have achieved and give me in life and it really pushes me to do even better.”