Danielle Terpko (left) and Melis Tanik (right) with sophomore Dana Gray.
March 28, 2013
by Nicole LaDuca
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Making that first adjustment to college is a difficult challenge for most young adults, but doing it twice is something that few college kids even think about enduring.
Being a student-athlete is rewarding, but it is not always the perfect lifestyle one may imagine. On some occasions, the reality may not live up to the expectations initially developed as a high school recruit.
The East Carolina women's tennis lineup features two student-athletes who arrived in Greenville as junior transfers.
Senior Danielle Terpko and junior Melis Tanik took two different paths before becoming Pirates. Terpko came from Southeastern Conference member Mississippi State and Tanik transferred from then-Big East member West Virginia.
Just before Terpko physically stepped foot on the Mississippi State campus, the coach she had grown close with during the recruiting process decided to retire.
"I thought I was going to spend my four years of college at Mississippi State, but with a coaching change, I decided I wanted to spend my final two years elsewhere," Terpko said. "I contacted Coach Morris and realized being a Pirate was the best option for me."
Terpko knew she was coming into new territory, but the risk was definitely worth the reward. "I didn't know any of the girls on the team, but I couldn't have felt more welcomed when I came to Greenville," she added. "It probably took me less than a semester to fully adjust, thanks to the help from my teammates."
Terpko has rolled to nine singles wins so far during the spring dual match season, which ranks as the second-highest total on the team. She has collected victories at the three, four and five position and has a 6-5 record with sophomore Dana Gray at the number three doubles position.
"Dani has played really well this semester, and her hard work over the past year and a half is paying off," veteran head coach Tom Morris said. "She is definitely someone we are counting on for wins as we get into the tough part of our season."
For Tanik, who calls nearby Raleigh home, transferring to ECU meant being closer to her family.
"My dad has coached me since I was eight, so living an hour and a half from home is great," Tanik said. "I can go see him on our off weekends and just hit a little more with him. I love the state of North Carolina, so being here full-time is really nice."
Tanik echoed Terpko's comments on the closeness of the team. "I have known Neena (Wanko) and Abby (Richmond) since I was 14, so coming in I already had friends on the team," she explained. "I quickly bonded with the rest of the girls, and being so close to everyone gives me more motivation to win for the team. I would definitely attribute some of our early success to being so close with one another. In tough matches, I can always count on my teammates to help pull me through the match and get a win for the team."
Tanik has won 11 of 15 singles matches during her spring debut at ECU, which currently stands alone on top of the Pirates' victory list. Although she's primarily played at the No. 2 position most of the season, she's also a combined 4-1 at three other slots and has a team-best 7-5 mark with Yilian Zhang in doubles action.
"Melis has been extremely consistent at the number two and three singles position for us," Morris said. "She is one of the fiercest competitors on our team, and her positive demeanor on the court helps her come out on top in close matches."
Not only does Tanik see the support from her team, but she also sees it from Pirate Nation.
"It is reassuring to see the different athletics teams supporting one another," Tanik summed up. "That strong sense of community isn't always found at every university."
Although making a decision to choose another college was difficult, it proved to be the right one for Terpko and Tanik. With the Pirates off to a 10-6 start, Morris and their teammates are happy the pair made the tough decision.
East Carolina plays its only regular season Conference USA match of the season Friday when it hosts UCF at the ECU Tennis Complex beginning at 10 a.m. before following with a 4 p.m. meeting with North Carolina Central.
Nicole LaDuca is a freshman student-athlete in the women's tennis program