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Kozyreva finds her match


by Matthew Ondesko: Managing Editor

Photos: Syracuse Athletics


All it takes is the one person to believe in you. It takes one person to give you a chance to see that you can handle anything that is thrown at you.


Polina Kozyreva always knew she wanted to play collegiate tennis. Where she was going to play was always a mystery. She had some offers, but it was the one from Syracuse University that stood out.


There was a certain bond that was made between Kozyreva and Syracuse coach Younes Limam. Coach Younes was the one who came to her tournaments, and even stayed for the entire match - which was a hard-fought affair.


That showed Kozyreva what kind of person coach Younes was, and the kind of program he was running at Syracuse.


“I had multiple reasons for choosing Syracuse over other schools which expressed interest in me. First of all, Coach Younes was the first coach who came to one of the tournaments I was playing and watched one of my practices with my coach, who I practiced with back in Russia. He also watched my game from start to finish in the second round of the tournament, which was a hard-fought victory for me, which reassured me that this coach cares for his players and is very devoted to the sport,” explained Kozyreva. “Therefore, I had a great first impression and was already inclined to choose Syracuse.”



It also helped that Syracuse already had other players on the team that spoke the same language as Kozyreva. This made her decision a little easier, and the transition that much better.


Syracuse also boasted a very good program in the extremely tough ACC. The school is also noted to be a very good academic institution. Put that all together and it was a no-brainer for Kozyreva to attend the university in Upstate New York.


“The second reason came around after I discovered that 3 of the girls spoke the same language as me, so I was not hesitant to reach out to them and ask about the tennis standing of the school,” stated Kozyreva. “I was pleasantly surprised that at the moment of my inquiry, the Syracuse tennis team was placed 33 nationally, which added to my desire to join such a strong team and contribute everything I have to be welcomed and accepted. Last but not least, I was looking for a school with good academic standing, and it happened that Syracuse was in the top 50 best-ranked schools at the moment of my enrollment. “


It has been a match made in heaven for both Kozyreva and Syracuse. Earlier this spring, Kozyreva hit the 50 win mark in singles and boast a carer record of 93-76 (both singles and doubles).


Everything you see out there on the court in due to hard work. Kozyreva will be the first to tell you that she is not a natural-born talent. She is out there everyday grinding during practice, working on parts of her game that need help.


Her game grows in confidence on the tennis court, and she brings that into her matches against some of the best teams, and players in the ACC.



“All that you see on the court is the result of the hard work that I put in day in and day out, because I am no natural-born talent I need to work twice as hard in order to achieve the goals that I have in front of me,” stated Kozyreva. “As I give everything I have in practice it naturally gives a boost to my confidence, and that same confidence helps me win my matches.”


In college tennis some matches comes down to more the mental side of the game then the physical part. A lot of players are at the same level when it comes to talent. The biggest adjustment anyone had to make is to the mental side.


When is comes down to crunch time who will make the mistake? Who will crumble when the match gets tight?


“When you are at the college level almost in every match the girl I play is similar to my physical abilities, which means that it boils down to who is mentally tougher and who wants the W more,” stated Kozyreva. “Usually, the first person to question her abilities and lose confidence in her skills is the one who loses.”


The mental side of her game is something that Kozyreva has worked on over the years. Kozyreva had the character to play at this collegiate level. She knew she could compete with anyone on the court.


The physical side of the game came with time. As she moved away from junior tournaments, and got into the college scene, her game started to grow more. She was able to get in the weight room and work on the little things to get stronger.


The final piece of the puzzle was the mental side. For most athletes that is the side that takes the longest. Kozyreva has worked on her mental game, and it shows. She has played all over the board for Syracuse, and is battled tested.


“Tennis matches are largely determined by the character, mental stability, and physical ability of the athlete. The character aspect of my personality was great, but I realized the other two aspects needed improvement. After some work was done it contributed to my success on the court,” stated Kozyreva. “The mindset that I currently have can be summarized as follows, when I step on the court I want my opponent to play her best game so that I can get the most out of this match and improve my game in many ways.”


With only a handful matches left in her college career it has been a great ride for Kozyreva. She came to a new country and settled in Update New York. She has been one of the best players in the ACC for the past five years, and she has achieved a great education.


She has made a lot of great memories, but still has some more to make before the season is over.


“I am sad that my college career is close to its end but I am very grateful to coach Younes and my teammates for being there for me and sharing good memories together,” stated Kozyreva. “As for this season, my main goal is to have fun and make a strong exit, such as going to the NCAA singles tournament.”

While her career is coming to and end, Kozyreva still hopes to stay in the game after obtaining her master’s degree. She would like to stay on as an assistant, and stay in the game that way until she deciders on what her future should be.


Whatever she decides to do, Kozyreva’s future will be bright.



“I am currently enrolled in a Master's program and I will be graduating next spring but I have high hopes that coach Younes will allow me to stay with the team and help out here and there with tennis practices,” stated Kozyreva. “As for my future plans, I am still not sure what I want to do after I graduate from the program, but for now, my working plan is to finish my master's and look for an open position as an assistant coach to get my Ph.D.”

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