Match 26: Arizona (11-14, 0-6) vs. No. 53 Utah (14-7, 2-4)
Time/Date: 11:00 a.m. PT – Friday Apr. 18
Where: Tucson, Ariz. – LaNelle Robson Tennis Center
Live Stats: arizonalivestats.com
By Jordy Clifton
College athletes come in as freshmen wide eyed and ready to learn. Whether they take their first step on the court, field, track or jump into the pool, they get an indescribable feeling of joy and excitement.
Once they hit senior year they know that it is time to step up and show leadership.
For senior tennis players Mario Urquidi and Kieren Thompson, they know the struggles of college, but have both grown tremendously in their game and leadership.
“They are our leaders each in their own ways,” said head coach Tad Berkowitz. “Kieren is our vocal guy, he’s the one who speaks when he feels the team needs to get something going. He knows when it is time to pump the guys up and when to get a little tough on the guys as well. Mario brings the energy with his work ethic every single day. It doesn’t matter if his ankle is hurting him or if he has a test the next day. He has always been that ‘blue collar workhorse’ for us.”
Berkowitz has seen both players improve and learn on and off the court.
In 2013 Thompson was Arizona’s winningest player and this season Urquidi has gone 13-11 including winning three of his last four matches.
Transforming from freshman to senior teammates has been a process on and off the court.
“When you come in as a freshman, you don’t really know what is going on,” Urquidi said. “Our sophomore year, we lost a lot of our seniors. After that we were the older guys on the team right away. We have been trying to build a reputation of working hard for what you want to achieve. Now that we are seniors, Kieren and I are looked up to as the role models on the team.”
Thompson and Urquidi have tried to show leadership not only on the court or in the weight room but in the classroom as well.
“We are not only seen as guys who the team can look up to on the court, but the guys who the team can look up to inside the classroom,” Urquidi said. “We are trying to build a legacy and put the team on a good path after we are gone.”
Both Thompson and Urquidi show extraordinary leadership when it comes to community service.
“I look at the kids that we help and realize how good all of us have it,” Thompson said. “It is good to give back. I think most of the teams here do community service, but I get a good feeling out of it and most of the other players do too.”
Thompson and Urquidi reflect on their past as freshmen and see that they have learned so much within their college careers. They have not only learned more about tennis, but also about people.
“Now that I am a senior I look back on freshman year and see how much I have matured,” Urquidi said. “I see everything so differently now, how people are, how they work, basically how everyone functions. I have learned a lot, not only about myself, but about my teammates as well.”
Thompson is one of six Arizona’s players that hails from a different country. Being in the United States for four years has been a significant change for him, but he has enjoyed learning about U.S. customs.
“You grow up over the four years,” Thompson said. “I know I have grown a lot and have been able to understand different cultures and how different people function.”
The change that these seniors have experienced will only help them in their futures.
Thompson and Urquidi will take the court for the last time on April 18. This will be the last time they get to show their leadership on the courts at Arizona. Their hard work and dedication will be looked up to and passed down throughout the program.