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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Graduate P Shaylee Ackerman (10) pitches during Texas A&Ms game against Valpo on Feb. 10, 2024 at Davis Diamond.
Holding down the house
February 22, 2024
Graduate P Shaylee Ackerman (10) pitches during Texas A&Ms game against Valpo on Feb. 10, 2024 at Davis Diamond.
Holding down the house
February 22, 2024

Stephania Hristov: Journey from Romania

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As Stephania Hristov prepares for yet another practice at the Mitchell Tennis Center, she is unfazed by her surroundings.
Hristov, a junior on the Texas A&M women’s tennis team, was born in Iasi, Romania. It was there that she developed a gritty mentality that she takes with her on the court.
“I remember my first tournament when I was ten years old in Romania,” Hristov said. “If I was ever losing a match, I would get really ticked off with myself and I always wanted to improve. I think what helped me the most is that even though I was in pain, or I was hurt, or not feeling my best, I was always striving to be the one of the best players.”
As Hristov began to rise up the ranks in Romania, she left for the United States after her 10th-grade year to play in a junior tennis academy in Bradenton, Fla. She had prior connections with a Romanian tennis coach, who happened to run the tennis academy. Hristov said students either pursue education or sports after completing high school, not both.
“In Romania, once you’re done with high school, you either go to college and study or you play your sport,” Hristov said. “You can’t have the best of both worlds.”
Hristov began playing in big tournaments in Bradenton and continued to improve in all facets of her game. As she improved, wins piled up and more success continued to come her way.
“There is this big tournament for juniors called the Orange Bowl every December,” Hristov said. “It’s equivalent to Wimbledon or Roland Garros for juniors. It’s there that I saw [Texas A&M head coach Howard] Joffe and [assistant coach Mark] Weaver. Coach Joffe apparently knew my coach from before, so when he saw me play he was very interested in me and started talking to me.”
Joffe, in his first year as the women’s tennis head coach, happened to be in attendance at the Orange Bowl and caught his first glance of Hristov.
“I saw Stephania playing in the qualifying rounds of the Orange Bowl,” Joffe said. “If you look at Stephania in terms of her stature, she’s not truly imposing. The thing that really struck me was how unbelievably tenacious she was. She was a really good competitor.”
Hristov did not fall in love with Texas at first sight.
“I didn’t know anything about Texas,” Hristov said. “The only time that I came to Texas before was for a tournament and I got food poisoning. After that I told myself that there was no way that I was going to go to Texas for college.”
Despite Hristov’s initial memories, selling College Station to Hristov wasn’t a hard job for Joffe. After her first and only visit to a university, she committed to the Aggies. The school and the tennis environment caught her eye.
“I saw the team practice and then I went to dinner with the team and the coaches,” Hristov said. “I talked to all the girls from the team and they seemed really nice. When I went back to Florida, I told my coach that [A&M] is where I want to go.”
Entering as a freshman, Hristov struggled with not only adjusting with the speed of collegiate tennis, but the schedule and coursework as well. Coming from Romania only three years prior, her English was still a work in progress. Hristov said she sought a lot of guidance and help from coaches and her teammates.
“I was lucky enough to have three seniors, two juniors and four freshman on the team,” Hristov said. “The seniors really guided the freshman and helped us through the process. Also Coach Joffe and Coach Weaver because they always asked how I was doing, and if I had any problems of issues, they were the first people that I was going to talk to.”
Fellow junior Anna Mamalat said Hristov is helpful on and off the court.
“I’ve been with her for two years now and I feel that I know a lot about her,” Mamalat said. “I know that if I need anything that I can come to her because she is in the same position as I am. She’s a great player and a great competitor on the court.”
There is a new feel to the Aggie women’s tennis this fall, as there are no seniors on the team, which makes Hristov and her fellow juniors the elders of the team.
Hristov has enjoyed success her first two years in College Station, most notably finishing ranked No. 16 in the ITA doubles rankings with now-graduated senior Cristina Stancu. She hopes to enjoy more success this year as she matures along with the other players on the team.
Junior Stephania Hristov is among the most experienced players on the women’s tennis team, which doesn’t have any seniors this year.
Photo by Sarah Lane

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