As one of only two seniors on the Fordham women’s tennis team, Mayu Sato has played a key role in the Rams’ successful 2016-17 season. Coming from Japan, first to Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) for two years and then landing in the Fordham program for her final two years, Sato was a significant contributor in Fordham’s 20-4 season, culminating in a semifinals berth in the Atlantic 10 Championship.
She sat down with The Fordham Ram to talk about her two years in Fordham’s tennis program, as well as the end of her college tennis career.
The Fordham Ram: When did you start playing tennis?
Mayu Sato: I started when I was seven.
TFR: Can you describe what it was like growing up playing tennis? Were you intent on playing in college?
MS: No, initially I was just playing for fun, and then, I don’t know, I just kept playing junior tennis in Japan. By high school, I was still on the tennis team, and I was also getting a scholarship in high school. My friend, she’s actually three or four years older than me, she went to college here and played for a tennis scholarship, so that’s how I knew, “oh, you can actually play tennis here,” because in Japan you can’t get a [college] scholarship for anything. It’s kind of hard to do academics and tennis at the same time, and here you can do both. In the U.S., the program is really supportive towards athletes.
TFR: You started your first two years at IPFW. What made you decide to transfer to Fordham’s program?
MS: I actually liked it there, I liked the team and the coach there, but I didn’t really like the place because it was in the middle of nowhere. I’m also really into fashion, I’m actually going to FIT [Fashion Institute of Technology], so I definitely wanted to come to New York. Then, I was finding a school, I found Fordham’s D1 athletic program, and Fordham is also academically a good school, so that’s the reason.
TFR: In regards to this year, you just finished your season at the A-10 Championship in Florida. Did you expect to have such a good season; with a record of 20-4 and a 16-game winning streak, did you think coming into the season that you would experience this kind of success?
MS: No, because last year was an okay season, but we lost in the first round. This year, we got two new freshmen, and they’ve contributed a lot to the team; they’re really solid. That was a huge factor. At the beginning of the season, we also beat Rutgers. They’re in the Big Ten conference, so I think at the beginning of the season, beating them gave us a lot of confidence, and I think that led to a successful season.
TFR: This team is fairly experienced, with only two freshmen on the roster. Can you talk about how playing together for a whole year help put you at ease in games and develop chemistry between the whole team?
MS: Tennis is more of an individual sport, but our doubles play is very successful because I play with my best friends who are on the team. I’ve played with them last fall, and Coach [Liguori] split us up for a while, but we got back together, so now we have a very good record. My coach also pairs players who are close to each other, so I think they have better chemistry in those matches.
TFR: Do you have a particular memory in your two years playing at Fordham that stands out to you?
MS: I would say this past week at Florida in the A-10 tournament because last year was my first year here, and we lost in the first round. I remember it was really stressful because we expected to win, so this year we were more motivated. Also, as a senior, I wanted to end my college tennis career on a successful note, so I was really happy with this past week.
TFR: You mentioned going to FIT after graduation; are you leaning more towards living here, or are you going back home to Japan?
MS: It really depends, because after FIT I’ll try to look for jobs here, and I’ll see how it goes.