Freshman women’s tennis player Natasha Subhash was named the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s National Rookie of the Year this week. Subhash is just the second Virginia player to ever win the award and the first since 2013 when Julia Elbaba earned the distinction.
“I don't think I started the season with any expectations other than to compete hard and have fun with my team,” Subhash told The Cavalier Daily in an email. “Training with my amazing coaches and teammates in the fall definitely set me up for success because of how much my coaches care about us improving and how hard my teammates work on a daily basis.”
The prestigious honor is a testament to Subhash’s incredible rookie season in 2020. Subhash led Virginia women’s tennis to a 10-5 start, including wins over seven ranked teams, before the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I tried to enjoy every minute of [my first season], and I think this helped me perform so well,” Subhash said. “I couldn't have done it without my incredible team.”
Individually, Subhash posted a stellar 26-6 singles record this year and was 15-5 against nationally ranked opponents. Playing at the top of the Cavaliers’ lineup, nearly two-thirds of Subhash’s matches were against ranked players.
In addition to her excellent singles play, Subhash had a 16-5 doubles record, most commonly partnering with sophomore Sofia Munera.
Subhash also performed well in tournament play this season. She claimed the ITA Atlantic Region singles title in October, advanced to the semifinals of the Oracle/ITA Masters and placed third at the ITA Winter Wild Card Playoff.
Given her experience in juniors tennis in high school, Subhash noted that the team aspect of college tennis was “the biggest adjustment for her.” However, she also emphasized that the transition wasn’t that difficult thanks to the support system around her.
“With college tennis, you have multiple coaches, staff members and a whole team who support you every day,” Subhash said. “Your teammates' success is your success as well, and you aren't just playing for yourself anymore … Having seven other girls around me who genuinely care about me and want me to do better every day is an amazing feeling, and I think I got used to this team atmosphere pretty quickly.”
The National Rookie of the Year honor is not the first award Subhash has won this year. Last week, she became the fifth Cavalier to be named the ITA Atlantic Region Rookie of the Year, which qualified her for the national award.
The Fairfax, Va. native was also selected as an ITA All-American, joining 19 other elite women’s tennis players from across the country. In Virginia, Subhash took home top honors in the 2020 VaSID Awards, including both Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year.
During the shortened season, Subhash peaked at No. 10 in ITA’s national rankings in singles. Going forward, Subhash will be prepared to build on an incredible rookie season whenever she returns to the court.
“It was disappointing to end the season the way we did because it felt like we had something special going on this year,” Subhash said. “However, we accomplished some pretty great things in the short time that we had together, and I am extremely excited to build off of them for next season.”
Barring any delay or cancellation, Virginia women’s tennis will resume team competition next January, as Subhash, Coach Sara O’Leary and the Cavaliers go for their fourth-straight winning season in 2021.
“We have three amazing girls coming in this fall, so I can't wait to see what next year has in store for us,” Subhash said. “Collegiate tennis is such an amazing experience and I can't wait to be a part of it again.”