Graduate student and fifth-year collegiate tennis player, Habiba Aly, has been named a Summit League Player to Watch for the spring 2022 season.
Aly, who is from Cairo, Egypt, was awarded this honor just ahead of the spring season Jan. 11.
After receiving this honor, Aly said she was proud to be recognized as a player to watch because it shows how her work and results in the past have paid off.
“It means a lot, of course, to be recognized,” Aly said. “I mean, it’s based on what the League says and what my coach sees, as well as all my results from last semester. I’m glad that it kind of paid off… It means a lot actually to be recognized like that.”
Preparation for the tennis season has been nonstop for Aly and the team. They have been getting ready for the spring season since as early as last fall.
“We have been preparing for (the spring season) since the fall with all the fall tournaments that we had and all the intense practices,” Aly said. “Even when we went home for Christmas break, I still kept practicing and doing all the conditioning with my coaches at home. Then, when we come back (to USD), I’m as ready as I can be for the season.”
Although there are no designated indoor tennis courts at USD, Aly and the team make due with two courts under the turf in the DakotaDome and four indoor courts in Yankton. Aly said she and the team hope to have indoor courts, which could be designed with rubber wet pour, one day as it would be beneficial for both practices and for recruiting purposes.
Aly said she is hopeful that the team will compete well this year and will be on the winning side of a few matches that they dropped last season.
“We’re working to kind of take what’s ours from now on, because there are so many matches (that were close), and there are so many teams that we always know that we’re close with, and sometimes we lose but we know that we could have won,” Aly said. “So, this time (our mindset is) that it’s ours and we’re gonna take it.”
In the fall, the women’s team played in tournaments against random players, but in the spring they will play duel matchups and go head-to-head against only one other team.
Aly said that the atmosphere in the duel matchups is much different than the atmosphere at tournaments.
“Everybody has to be there cheering until the very last match, and there is all this excitement and adrenaline. I really love the duel matches,” Aly said.
Tennis is as much of a mental as it is a physical game Aly said, but everyone has their own way to go about preparing for a match.
“There’s not like a default preparation, it’s just how every player would put their minds to it,” Aly said. “You see us mostly as a team, but if you see us in the warm up, everybody is kind of in their own zone.”
In addition to being a student athlete, Aly teaches classes for her graduate program. Aly said this has really taught her how to balance her life.
“It’s a skill that I think every student athlete naturally just owns by default, because it’s crazy how you have to balance (your sport), sleep and social life… which is nonexistent,” Aly said. “But at least (athletes) have each other.”
The Coyote tennis team is projected to finish third in the Summit League this season by the coaches preseason poll.