April 26, 2013
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Each week during the 2012-13 season a Maryland student-athlete, who has shown excellence on and off the playing field, will be selected as the Solomon Eye Associates Terp of the Week. This week's Solomon Eye Associates Terp of the Week is Vroni Van Berlo of the tennis team.
Van Berlo beat the 25th-ranked player in the country and won her doubles match to secure the Terps' first ACC win and a win over a top 15 team.
By Taylor Smyth | Media Relations Assistant
While getting mobbed by her teammates, Vroni Van Berlo kept looking at Hanna Mar. When the Maryland senior eventually overcame the collective grasp of her team and shook the hand of her disappointed Duke foe, she only allowed a small smile to come through.
Vroni Van Berlo doesn't ever show that much. In a sport where vocalizing your emotions on the court is not just accepted, but celebrated, the only sounds heard from Van Berlo are the ball hitting her racket and the squeak of her shoes. That's just the way she likes it.
"I like to be in the background," Van Berlo said. "I don't really like attention. I'll just play tennis and we'll see how that goes. "
It's been going pretty well. The senior has been Maryland's most consistent performer since being thrust into a featured role in 2013, leading the Terrapins in wins and landing on the All-ACC team. Currently ranked 107th nationally, Van Berlo has played every match for the Terps at No. 1 singles and doubles, a role she had to quickly adapt to after mainly playing lower in the lineup last season.
"When you play the top spot, you can't make easy errors because they're going to be right on top of it. The ACC is one of the toughest conferences. It was hard at the beginning, but I got through it."
While Van Berlo was skeptical about anchoring the Terps' lineup when head coach Daria Panova proposed the idea to the senior before the season began, her biggest transition has been to her responsibilities off the court, namely being a leader for her five freshman teammates.
"Sometimes I was just being a translator from what Coach Panova was trying to tell them. I'm not a natural leader, but I'm a senior and I knew I had to do it. They're all freshman, so they want to learn."
It wasn't always easy. After a decent start against non-conference opposition, the Terps hit a rough patch during their ACC slate. An eight-match losing streak dominated the second half of Maryland's season, but never seemed to deter Van Berlo and her young charges. If anything, the adversity toughened up the Terps.
"In a season, you have ups and downs all the time," Van Berlo said "Sometimes there are more ups than downs and sometimes there are more downs than ups. You just have to keep working towards the next match and not give up on it. It's hard sometimes to do that, but I knew it was going to turn around at some point."
The turnaround centered on the Terps' late season contest with No. 11 Duke. With the Blue Devils somewhat short-handed, the home match was the Terps best opportunity for a conference win.
From the beginning of the contest, it was clear that Van Berlo would not allow her team to lose. After teaming with Sarah Gealer to lock up the doubles point, Van Berlo was set to face Mar, the 25th-ranked player in the country. As their tightly contested battle entered the third set, it was apparent that it would be the decisive match.
"I was just playing for the team," Van Berlo said. "I wanted to give them the win. It gave me more focus to just play my game and not worry about the score."
Down 5-3 in the final set, it looked as though Van Berlo and the Terps had let another match slip through their grasp. Another step in the learning process, perhaps, but not the precious victory they had so coveted.
But Van Berlo wouldn't let it happen. The senior ripped off the next four games to defeat Mar. After her opponent's final shot hit the net, Van Berlo's teammates jubilantly converged on her, showing the outward emotion they knew their leader felt, but wasn't comfortable expressing.
"It was so great," Van Berlo said. I had a hard time processing that we beat Duke. It was just so, so great.
That's all Vroni Van Berlo could muster about the biggest win of her career. For Panova, that's all she'll ever need to say. For the first-year head coach, Van Berlo has been an indispensable piece she is not happy to lose. However, unlike her modest student, she is more than happy to express Van Berlo's importance to Maryland tennis.
"She's a great tennis player," Panova said. "She cared so much about the program and spent so much time on how to make it better. It will be so hard to lose her."