Sports, Women's Sports, Women's Tennis

LBSU women’s tennis has a French captain leading the line

Lena Pacholski steps up to the baseline of Hannah Grady Court in every home match at the Rhodes Tennis Center. She vigorously bounces the ball three to four times before rocking forward with her deadly serve.

With an electric look in her eyes and an impassioned scream for every point she earns for her team, Pacholski carries the responsibility of being one of the most talented and experienced players on the Long Beach State women’s tennis team this season.

“She is an extremely hard worker,” head coach Jenny Hilt-Costello said. “Those are the players you love to have on your team. The driven, motivated and hard [working] players who listen like Lena. We all work together with her to make her the best player she could be.”

The 22-year-old senior began to play tennis when she was 8-years-old. She was born in Villeurbanne, France and moved to the United States after failing to accomplish her goal of playing professional in her home country.

“I decided pretty late that I wanted to come to the U.S. because I was looking to become professional in France,” Pacholski said. “I could not make it, so I discovered the opportunity of coming to the US, playing and traveling with a team, learning to speak English and earning an international degree.”

The political science major could not turn professional due to high expenses and her decision of moving away from her home country. Because she was not eligible to play Division I tennis at first coming from France three years ago, Pacholski attended Armstrong State University in Georgia and played Division II for the Pirates. In three semesters, she won two national titles and compiled an overall 15-0 singles and 9-0 doubles record as a freshman.

In 2016, Pacholski finally transferred as a junior to play with the 49ers.

“I wanted to play good level tennis, I did not feel challenged in Division II so I decided to come here,” Pacholski said. “It has been great, I love it here. It has been a very enriching experience. I would not change anything I have done to be here to be honest.”

Pacholski finished her first season at Long Beach with a 22-12 overall record after going 17-5 in doubles action and 5-7 in singles play. This season, she has currently won seven of her last ten single matches. Pacholski hasa 17-7 overall record, holding the most wins on the team.

“My coaches here are always willing to help me give it a hundred percent,” Pacholski said. “Also, with my team, we all have each other’s back and motivate each other. We are not just teammates, we are a little family, that is what makes our team special.”

Pacholski plays doubles matches with her roommate, teammate and friend sophomore Natalia Muñoz.

“I think we always try to set and example in being positive and fighting on the court,” Muñoz said. “We work very well together, we communicate a lot during doubles. It helps us to stay in the match if it is a tough one.”

Both of them bring a rousing and energetic vibe to the team when they play together.

“We bring that out specially when we are together in the court,” Muñoz said. “We are both very expressive that when we see each other’s faces we know it’s time to go and win.”

Muñoz and Pacholski live alongside teammate sophomore Maren Helgo and Long Beach State women’s golf sophomore Maria Davis in a two-floor apartment off-campus.

“I spend 95 percent of my time with Lena,” Muñoz said. “I love her. She is fun, energetic and a positive person. She makes my experience here better, she is a great friend.”

Pacholski has proven to be a standout athlete, and continues to dominate.

“She is an aggressive player,” said Hilt-Costello. “She can finish points at the net, she has a big serve. She is a great leader for the girls at the No. 1 position this season. Her all-around game is truly great.”

Despite her dream of playing for the French national team like her mother did has been setback, Pacholski will always be grateful with the sport she loves.

“Playing tennis has helped me in every aspect of my life,” Pacholski said. “Tennis has brought me the capability to adapt to different situations, to handle stress and being a stronger person. I am a player with no limits.”

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