Junior tennis star’s personality shines bright on and off the court

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Then-freshman Maria Linares prepares to serve against North Texas on Feb. 9, 2018, at Body First Indoor Tennis Center. The Wildcats won 4-3. (Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)

In athletics, attitude is everything; a bad attitude can lead to a bad practice which can lead to a bad performance, while good attitudes can lead to success not only on the court or field, but in life as well.

While some athletes have to build up that positive attitude, junior tennis player Maria Linares had it from her first day on campus.

“I think in life it’s difficult to wake up and be positive despite the difficult circumstances that you may be having, but she finds ways to do that every day,” assistant tennis coach Tom Rees said. “She’s never going to let things off the court detract from her focus and her hard work in practice.”

In her first year on the team, Linares garnered multiple honors including Big 12 Freshman of the Year, Intercollegiate Tennis Association Central Region Rookie of the Year and earning her place on the All-Big 12 Second Team.

Linares helped the Wildcats reach the second round of the NCAA Championship in 2018, defeating Kentucky in the first round 4-3, thanks to a comeback victory in the final match.

“The atmosphere was crazy,” junior teammate Anna Turco said. “[Her winning] and [helping] the team win in the first round of Nationals her freshman year, it was just crazy.”

The success has not been without some struggle, however, as Linares is nearly 2,700 miles from her home and family in Maracay, Venezuela.

However, Linares found a new family in her teammates. With eight out of the nine athletes on the tennis team hailing from different countries, they rely on each other to help adapt to life in a different country.

“I have a new family here,” Linares said. “They are always there for me, supporting me in the bad moments and the good moments. If I need something I know I can reach out to them anytime because I know that they will help me.”

That feeling of having a family, mixed with the energy that Linares has, makes for a player that is bound to have some fun with the others. Her antics can be seen on the courts during practice, poking fun at teammates and coaches, bringing a smile to the faces of everyone.

“There’s always something unexpected that can happen with her, you never know what can happen, she’s just crazy,” Turco said. “Maybe you’re in the street and she just starts to dance, or sing, or scream. In the [car] she’s always making us laugh, basically everything [is funny with her].”

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