She may be easy going and friendly off the court, but don’t let Long Beach State Women’s tennis player Natalia Munoz fool you with her personality. During gametime, Munoz adopts a fierce and intense persona in order to clinch her victory.
Teammates and head coach Jenny Hilt-Costello all back up how much fun the sophomore is to have on this roster, and how the consistent positive energy she provides propels them forward as a unit.
“She’s a great personality to have on the team,” Hilt-Costello said. “She gets along with everybody.”
Finishing last season with one of the best records on the team, going 21-12. The sophomore started this year going 3-0, and has proved herself as a top player in the Big West. Even though she is only in her second year at LBSU, Munoz has really begun to play a huge role for this team. At the UNLV tournament this last week, the unstoppable sophomore defeated No. 83 ranked player Aiwen Zhu from UNLV, and then went on to win in the finals.
“I played [Aiwen Zhu] on center court in front of her whole team, so I really wanted to show her up.” Munoz said. “When I put my visor on, I just tell myself, ‘Alright it’s time to play.’”
Before every tennis match, Munoz goes through that same mentality that may seem very insignificant, but it changes her entire mindset going into each match.
Growing up in Santa Clarita, California, the sophomore player was first introduced to tennis by her father at the age of six years old. Playing at the country club just next to their house, she began to participate in junior tournaments, which is what really helped pave the way to Munoz falling in love with the game.
“I love that it’s not luck…if you win [in tennis], you’re the winner,” Munoz said. “It’s not some sort of fluke; you really have to go out there and get it.”
As a teammate, Munoz understands her role for this season. Being that the majority of the players on the team last year were seniors and graduated, Munoz is one of the veterans on the roster.
That being the case, she wants to start this season by being the leader that the seniors were last year and that the coaches expect her to be. Munoz said she wants to be able to show the first-year players what attitude they should be playing with.
“[I want to] just lead by example, like always being in a good mood because especially at practice when everyone’s tired,” Munoz said. “If you’re in a bad mood it just makes everything more miserable.”
As a player, Munoz believes that in every single game she needs to give it her all, always be aggressive, and never be afraid to take chances in the big moments. She understands that it is a team effort even though tennis is not a game where the team plays as a unit.
Her doubles partner, senior Lena Pacholski recognizes more than most the amount of effort Munoz puts into every play and every game.
“She is very quick to the ball, if the shot is super short in the front square, I know that even if the [opponent] is gonna try to fake her out, she’s somehow still going to get it.” Pacholski said.
According to coaches and players on the team, Munoz has made great improvements coming into her second year. She had worked long and hard throughout this past summer in order to really improve her game and get to that next level.
“Her game has just come so far, she put in a lot of work the summer playing in some ITA [Intercollegiate Tennis Association] Summer Circuit matches,” Hilt-Costello said. “She’s really gotten up on that baseline, her aggressive ground strokes followed up with her volleys has made her incredibly difficult to beat and it showed this weekend.”
Munoz is beginning to become one of the leading players for this team and there is no doubt that she is fully prepared to take on that role. With the backing from her coaches and her teammates, watch out for Munoz to lead this LBSU team to a Big West title this season.