No. 6 Sophomore Adria Engel Leads Women's Tennis Into NCAA Championships

May 17, 2001

Last summer, 5'6' sophomore Adria Engel made the switch from the Atlantic Coast to the Pac-10, and she has done wonders for the No. 11 Arizona State women's team, currently battling in the NCAA Championships in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Not only will Engel help the team at the Team Championships, but she will also be taking part in the NCAA singles Championships, beginning May 21. Late last week, before the Devils earned a Sweet 16 spot by burning through the first and second rounds of regional action, this is what she had to say before she and the team headed to Georgia:

Q: What, or who, prompted you to transfer to Arizona State from Wake Forest?Engel: 'Well, I worked with [Head Coach Sheila McInerney] over the 2000 summer for four weeks when I was on the team (top collegiate-ranked players) and she was the coach, and I knew Karin [Palme] and Celena [McCoury] from Juniors, so at least I knew a few of the girls on the team. Working with Sheila really opened my eyes. She helped me with so much just in the four weeks. I didn't know any of the other coaches and what they were like, and that's just the best way to know a coach--to work with them. I talked to so many other coaches and players who knew Sheila, and they just said the best things about her. 'I was going through the process of the release from Wake Forest. I didn't know where I would go until I met Sheila. This time last year, before nationals, I knew I wasn't coming back [to Wake Forest], but I had no clue. I didn't know until I met Sheila.'

Q: Who was your toughest opponent in the Pac-10 singles Championships?Engel: 'Probably, the toughest match, playing-wise, was the quarterfinal match [against] Christina Fusano from Cal-Berkeley. I was down 4-1 in the third [set], I won 7-5. It was just really hard--the conditions. The balls just didn't go anywhere. Here, the balls fly, you can hit them as hard as you want. Over there, I hit it as hard as I could and it would go, like, near the service line. It was just a joke. And the girl I played was like a wall, she wouldn't miss, and she gave me no pace to work with, so I had to generate all my power on my own. That's always harder--having a hard hitter as your opponent, but just mentally for me, coming back and battling. I told myself after that match, `You can win any match, even if you're down 5-0, 40-Love, match-point.' You know, you can always win. It's not over until it's over.'

'And then semifinals against [UCLA's] Sara Walker, she won it last year. She's always been a tough opponent--she's really good. I just played, and I was down a set to her and I came back and won pretty easily.'

Q: So far, what is the most memorable part of your collegiate career?Engel: 'Well, I've had a lot of memorable results. Last year, being an All-American Finalist was huge as a freshman. Then, I think, just the way I am--how happy I am here--the Pac-10 for sure. Being the first ASU player to win [Pac-10 singles title]--I don't think it's even sunk in yet. I haven't realized how huge it is. I'm really proud to have done that.'

Q: What do you feel is the strongest part of your singles game?Engel: 'I think I'm consistent and aggressive. When I'm on, I just rack the ball over and I want to hit it as hard as I can. And mentally, too, I feel I've been working on it. I've always been strong mentally, but I try not to let things bother me, because if you let things bother you, you fall behind.'

Q: When did you begin playing tennis?Engel: 'When I was four years old. My first tournament was when I was six--I was six years old playing a 10 year-old girl, and I lost, 6-0, 6-0. I got off the court and my parents were there, and I asked them, `Did I win?' I had no idea that I'd lost. I was just playing.'

Q: Do you have a favorite tennis model whom you admire?Engel: 'I've always looked up to Chris Everett--just the way she presented herself on the court and she never got upset at herself. She gave 100% in every match, and she was just classy and feminine. I try to be like she was on the court--not get upset. I don't get upset and throw the rackets. But just the way she was as a person off the court, too. All-around, I really liked her a lot.'

Q: Have you ever been to any major professional tournaments?Engel: 'My brother, Marty, played the U.S. Open (qualifying), so I went there and saw some of the really good players--that was really cool. I went one year to the Open, I was the second alternate. I was there qualifying, and I saw Steffi Graff, [Monica] Seles, and all those players.'

Q: What was the doubles transition like for you from Karin Palme to Faye DeVera?Engel: 'I think we started off really well with Karin at the beginning of the year and everything was clicking, and I don't think we started playing bad or anything. I just don't think the chemistry was there anymore like it was in the beginning. I love playing with Faye. I think we complement each other's game really well. She likes to hit hard, and I hit hard, too, but I'm more of a finesse player. I think we work well together. It's exciting to play with Faye, she's a lot of fun, and I had fun with Karin, too, but it just didn't work out. I guess it had to be to change it up a little bit.'

Q: What is something Head Coach Sheila McInerney has done to help your game?Engel: 'She's made me learn the game more--make me understand the game a lot more than I did--just my decisions, staying in patterns. Before I met her, I was just hitting the ball--I was sporadic and would go for it any chance I got. That's really helped me a lot--staying in patterns and thinking out there. I'm thinking finally. Everything's improved. My backhand, my serve. She's really a positive coach. She's a tough coach, and I think everyone needs that to improve. I like that she's not the toughest coach that she's on top of you, and I like that a lot.'

Q: What are your feelings on making the national singles?Engel: 'I'm just glad I can represent ASU. Nationals is just another tournament. I'm just happy that I'm going and playing for ASU, and I hope we bring back a trophy. I'm glad Mhairi [Brown] and Celena [McCoury] (representing ASU in national doubles) made it. They've been doing really well. I wish more of my teammates could have been playing. We're working hard. So many of us deserve to play it.'

Q: Is there anything that stands out in your career that has helped you to succeed?Engel: 'Positive support from everyone, like my family and my teammates, especially. I really haven't met a group of girls that I get along so well with. Seriously, we're like best friends. When we're off the court, we don't talk about tennis--we are as friends--and that really relaxes the atmosphere for me.'

The Devils and Head Coach Sheila McInerney should be in good hands with a healthy Adria Engel on the squad for the remainder of her collegiate years and as ASU looks to put a pitchfork in Stone Mountain this month at the NCAA Championships.

'I think she's become a smarter player, and that's the big thing [going] into nationals-- you have to be tough,' said McInerney. 'It's a long tournament, both in team and individuals, and I think she's been more consistent this year from match to match.'

Engel, 1999-2000:

Transferred from Wake Forest last year

Notched both ACC's Player and Rookie of the Year in 1999-2000

Earned ITA's Rookie of the Year in 1999-2000

Holds Wake Forest record for season wins with 45

Finished freshman season ranked No. 8 nationally

Became first freshman in Wake Forest history to reach All-American finals

Crowned ACC's Indoors singles champion

Posted a 16-5 record on No. 1 court for Wake Forest

Engel, 2000-2001:

Named April's ITA Player of the Month after going 11-1

After being seeded No. 1 in the tournament, became the first player in ASU history to claim Pac-10 singles title

Leads ASU with a 29-7 overall record

Earned First-Team All-Pac-10 honors last week

Currently ranked No. 6 in the nation

Has won 25 of last 27 singles matches

Was ranked as high as No. 5

Posts 21-4 record on No. 1 singles court

Notches 20-7 record as a doubles partner

Will represent ASU in singles action at NCAA Championships on Monday

Owns 74-17 (.813) career record

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