Over the Net: ODU Senior Joanna Dobrowolska
Feb. 16, 2011
ODUSports.com will feature various student-athletes throughout the spring semster. This week it will feature senior women's tennis player Joanna Dobrowolska.
Going to college is a tough transition for any college student, especially if they've never seen the college before and are coming to the United States for the first time ever. Joanna Dobrowolska made that trip three and a half years ago, and it was something she'll never forget.
"My first trip coming here wasn't the best experience, my bags didn't get here until five days later," Dobrowolska said. "I had nothing with me, but Darryl Cummings and Dom (former assistant coach Dom Manella) helped me out and I was really appreciative of that.
Dobrowolska's experience at Old Dominion has improved since that first day, as she has developed into the Lady Monarchs' number one singles player and advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season in doubles competition.
A native of Warsaw, Poland, Dobrowolska started playing tennis at the age of six with her brothers, as well as playing with her dad, who was a tennis instructor.
"Both my parents played so it was like second nature to follow them and play," Dobrowolska said. "I went to the club and would play in a lot of tournaments and also made sure to focus on school as well, not just tennis."
When it came time to start looking at colleges, Dobrowolska was not sure what to expect. She wanted to continue to play tennis but also get a good education.
"I had some friends in Poland and they told me about the United States and how it works. I was interested in playing tennis and studying, its what I wanted to do," she said. " In Europe you don't get the chance for a tennis scholarship. Here I can play in the fall and spring."
Picking a college was also an adventure for her, something that was unknown and did not know what to expect. She was unable to make campus visits so she had to rely a lot on the opinion and recommendation of friends.
"I had no idea how to pick a college. I just based my opinion on friends and asking everyone what they think," Dobrowolska said. "I had a friend in Baltimore and wanted to find something on the east coast cause it was closer in flying time. I had some offers in California, but decided it would be easier on the east coast. "
After doing some research and getting quality feedback, she was happy with the location of Old Dominion and numerous aspects of the campus.
"I saw the video of Old Dominion, I liked the idea being close to the beach, on campus everything was fairly close and also close to the city," Dobrowolska said. The campus was looking very good and the tennis courts were very good. A lot of schools don't have the tennis facility like they do here. All those things were the deciding factor for me." Once she got to Norfolk and settled (and her luggage showed up), Dobrowolska adjusted quickly to her new surroundings, especially the tennis.
"I got here for the spring, and started playing at number five and started moving up from there. We played a lot of matches, but it was good. I love matches."
As the case when moving to a different country, the language barrier presented an obstacle for the Poland native.
"I had English for a lot of years, but not like speaking it every day. It made anatomy and some classes hard, since I was still kind of learning the culture, but it wasn't bad since its similar."
Whatever trouble Dobrowolska had off the courts, it never seemed to show up in her play. She earned Third-Team All-CAA honora her first two years and made the first-team for singles and doubles play last season. The owner of a 63-33 career record, Dobrowolska is now the only senior on the Lady Monarchs' squad.
"I don't feel like a senior it just went so fast. There was always someone older than me and now there's not," Dobrowolska added. "The girls are nice and we get along well. I try to explain to them about school and give them advice. They are pretty smart, so they know most of the stuff."