Featured Athlete: Yulia Shupenia

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Photo Courtesy Steve Woltmann

Yulia Shupenia

By Sports & Health Editor

Yulia Shupenia, a 20-year-old sophomore communications major at DePaul University, was named the BIG EAST Women’s Tennis Athlete of the Week on Feb. 9 by the BIG EAST Conference. Shupenia plays on DePaul University’s women’s tennis team and currently holds a perfect 7-0 record in dual singles and plays and holds a 10-0 including spring tournament matches. 

At the age of 11, Shupenia traveled from her hometown of Gomel, Belarus in Eastern Europe to Florida to compete in a tennis tournament. She ended up staying in Florida by herself for two years to attend a private school before returning home to Belarus, where high school tennis teams did not exist.

The Chronicle spoke with Shupenia about transferring to DePaul, what it is like to play tennis in college and her post-graduation plans. 

THE CHRONICLE: Was tennis a part of your life growing up?

YULIA SHUPENIA: Before going into tennis, I actually did gymnastics for a year. After realizing that it was not something for me—I just thought the coaches were really strict and it wasn’t fun for me at all—my dad switched me to tennis. [He] knew it was going to be something serious since I started, so I have been involved in tennis since I was six years old.

How was the transition from gymnastics to tennis?

YS: Tennis is an individual sport. There was no team involved with gymnastics. I just like that tennis offered a little bit more variety than gymnastics. That is why I just decided to stick with it.

What is your training schedule like?

YS: On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we do an hour in the gym with intense weights. Early on Wednesday mornings, we do conditioning like footwork and running.

What was it like transferring to DePaul and playing tennis at the college level?

YS: College tennis offers a lot of opportunity to play a lot of matches, and that is why I became interested in playing college tennis in the first place. I was looking for a good school that takes tennis seriously, and I also like that Chicago is a big city. [Tennis] is competitive wherever you play. The good thing about it is you play every single weekend and get a lot of matches in. That is what I think will help you to improve your playing.

What are your plans after graduating?

YS: I just switched to a communications major, so I am still kind of exploring. I was an international studies major, and I kind of thought that it would be nice to combine the two. I am trying to focus on tennis. [Playing tennis professionally after graduation] would be amazing.

How do you balance academics with athletic commitments? 

YS: It is a struggle. At first I underestimated the academic part and thought I could maybe slack off sometimes, but that doesn’t work at all. Now I just have to manage two of them, and perhaps academic comes first.

What has this season been like for the team?  

YS: I thought it was a really solid season. DePaul’s women’s tennis team is a team no matter what. This is something that I see when we are traveling and right now when dual matches begin, some teams aren’t very close and are almost competitive with one another, but DePaul is not like that. This is the definition of a team.