March 9, 2017
By Brad Muller | More Features
Freshman student-athletes often have to go through an adjustment period when they first arrive on campus, so it's not a surprise when there are struggles early. South Carolina women's tennis freshman Mia Horvit knew all about overcoming some adversity before she even arrived on campus and has already made a smooth adjustment to college life.
"I've always had to juggle my schedule for as long as I could remember," Horvit said. "I am the oldest of four siblings, all of whom are involved in different activities. My parents have always been very supportive with shuffling one of us to an acting class, then one to a lacrosse field, another to a football field and me to the tennis courts. I was raised watching my parents attempt to balance our busy schedules and eventually learned from it. I was forced at a young age to learn how to adapt to change and go with the flow."
The Florida native had some unique challenges growing up as she developed allergies to gluten and dairy and had to deal with painful blistering rashes, which caused her to miss some school.
"Before I knew I was allergic, I was breaking out in rashes," Horvit said. "I remember playing in a tournament in Florida, and it was really hot. I was wrapping my arms in tape to cover up the rashes and wearing long sleeves and leggings. If I didn't have that on, I would have been scratching until I was bleeding. It's great here (at South Carolina). The people at the Dodie (Academic Enrichment Center) cafeteria help a lot working around my allergies.
"Everyone has some difficulties in life, but it's all about how you overcome it. When you face adversity, how you bounce back from it is what builds character. I've had times when I didn't want to play tennis and wanted to quit."
But she didn't quit. Getting to where she is now is part of her the 19 year old's dream of playing professional tennis.
So far during my freshman year, I can say that I have learned and gained a lot, both on and off the court.
Born in Stuart, Fla., she moved to Charlottesville, Va., when she was seven and that's when she was bitten by the tennis bug.
"At first I was taking two lessons per week for about two hours in the afternoon, and I started really getting into it," Horvit said. "I'd do that for a while and then get private lessons. My dad was commuting from Florida to Charlottesville as a real estate investor, and one summer he took me down to the Chris Evert Academy in Boca Raton. I really liked it a lot, so I kept going back there during the summer for the next two years."
Her parents told her that she had a "God-given talent" for the game, and Horvit recalls playing tennis for six hours a day, five days a week, starting at the age of ten.
"I picked it up pretty fast," Horvit said. "I just liked going out there hitting with my parents. Just being out there and not really thinking about anything was a lot of fun."
The family moved back to Florida after a few years for her dad's work and her career soared.
"My father would drive me to the tennis courts for private lessons every day at 6 a.m., two hours before school started, then drive me to school and then back to the tennis courts after school was over for fitness training and group practice," Horvit recalled. "As a young junior tennis player, I was exposed to great tennis coaches in South Florida at the Evert Academy, Harold Solomon Institute and Rick Macci Academy."
The rigorous training also meant a lot of personal sacrifice.
"I remember getting off the courts after practice and staying up many late nights trying to get my school work done," Horvit said. "Hanging out with friends was tough because I practiced all week long and played tournaments on the weekends. I did not get the opportunities to go to many parties and be social like all the other kids."
After an outstanding career as a junior tennis player which saw her compete in many major tournaments in the U.S. and abroad while being ranked in the top ten in the United States, Horvit wrestled with the option of turning professional or going to college.
"I didn't commit here until last July, so that was a late commitment," Horvit said. "I was training up in College Park (MD) at the time, and one of my coaches referred (South Carolina) Coach (Kevin) Epley to me. I liked what he had to say, and looked him up online and saw how he had worked with top professional tennis players. He also worked with Billie Jean King, so I thought that was pretty neat."
Horvit admits that after getting a taste of playing high level tennis as a junior, she had a lot to consider.
"I've played the Junior Australian Open, the Junior U.S. Open and Junior Wimbledon," Horvit said. "Turning pro would be an expensive gamble and one I didn't feel I was ready at the time to take. I ended up picking South Carolina because he (Epley) had worked with all of the pros, and that's what I wanted to do. My goal is to get a degree in broadcast journalism and then turn pro afterwards. If that doesn't work out, I'd still have my degree and would then pursue my dream in broadcast journalism. Either way, I'd get something out of it."
Once she got on campus, she didn't regret it.
"So far I'm having a really great time here," Horvit said. "I've matured a lot. I'm learning to appreciate experiencing different things every day with my coaching staff, teammates, and professors. All of them have been a part of fostering my growth and development".
Horvit went 11-1 in the fall, winning the ITA Carolina Regional consolation singles title and later taking the overall singles title at the Jack Kramer Invitational in Los Angeles, Calif. She is currently playing at the No. 1 singles spot for the Gamecocks this spring and is ranked 58th nationally.
"I really don't look at the numbers when it comes to the lineup," Horvit said. "We're all leaders here. Every match is important, whether you play No. 1 or No. 6."
With her family doing well and her college career off to a good start, Horvit knows there will be more adjustments, but she's in a good place.
"In the beginning, I was a bit nervous and didn't know what to expect," Horvit said. "I enjoy the challenges that Coach Epley brings to our team and look at it as an opportunity to improve. So far during my freshman year, I can say that I have learned and gained a lot, both on and off the court.
"My road to South Carolina was a bit of a roller coaster ride. Although I've experienced many trials and tribulations while getting here, I can say that all of the hours of hard work and training has paid off and I am eager and ready to build on it. I am blessed with this great opportunity to play for the Gamecocks and am looking forward to having a great season playing some great tennis and winning championships with my team."
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