Freshman Anna Baranovski did not begin her life playing tennis, but the discovery of her passion for the sport changed her whole life.
Baranovski, the daughter of Ukrainian immigrants, neither of whom ever played tennis themselves, grew up in Houston, Texas, playing other sports throughout her youth. When Baranovski was 10 years old, her mother signed her up for a tennis camp in the summer, and she instantly enjoyed it.
“When I started playing tennis, I knew right away that it was something that I really loved and wanted to keep doing,” Baranovski said.
Baranovski showed immediate potential in tennis at a young age, and her parents took notice.
“They were dedicated to seeing me succeed,” she said. “They did lots of research about fitness, nutrition and tennis in general. They helped me so much.”
Her parents’ research influenced Baranovski not only in tennis, but also in her future career, as she is now a nutrition science major and would like to become a registered dietitian in the sports world.
Baranovski continued to play tennis while growing up and watched her favorite player on TV, Rafael Nadal. Then, when she finished middle school, her parents showed their dedication to her success once again. They found new jobs and moved the family to Sunrise, Florida. Baranovski dropped out of school and enrolled in an online high school, which allowed her to fully focus on tennis.
“By moving to Florida, I could compete in amateur and professional tournaments all of the time, as it is a hub for tennis,” she said. “This allowed my game to improve a lot.”
Baranovski was quite successful in these tournaments, but she personally felt like she needed to make a change in her tennis career.
“I met Jeremy [Bayon], the [Nebraska] assistant coach, at a professional tournament,” Baranovski said. “I saw him with two of the women’s tennis players from Nebraska and I really liked the way that he was approaching them as a coach. I felt like my training could be better, so I thought there would be potential to work with the coaches and improve at Nebraska.”
Despite having roughly the same rules and scoring system, the professional and collegiate tennis matches are very different, according to Baranovski. That wasn’t the only thing that surprised her when she made it to Lincoln.
“The weather has been a big change from the always warm and sunny south Florida,” she said. “Everybody here is so nice and really welcoming, and I’m not really used to that kind of environment.”
While Baranovski has yet to make a big impact, head coach Scott Jacobson sees a bright future ahead for the freshman.
“We are incredibly excited to have Anna joining the program,” Jacobson said. “She will be a tremendous asset to our team this coming season and beyond.”
Baranovski agrees with Jacobson’s assessment and has set some lofty goals for herself and the team.
“I believe that I can help us win the Big Ten Conference, which is the goal for this team to achieve every season,” Baranovski said. “I also think that we can make it to the NCAA tournament.”
If the Huskers could achieve those goals, it would be their first Big Ten Conference title and NCAA tournament appearance since they did both in 2013. This would be an enormous step forward for the program, giving them a chance to be seen in the national spotlight.
“We have a really strong team, and I only make us better,” she said. “We’re ready to show everyone how good we are.”