The feature story below on women's tennis senior captain Laura Peterzan, is part of a year-long commitment to highlight Harvard's captains and other intriguing student-athletes. For more question-and-answer features click here and enjoy the high-caliber student-athletes whom we have come to enjoy.
She finished her freshman year much like her senior year -- with an Ivy League title. Senior Laura Peterzan captained this year's team to its 18th Ancient Eight Championship in the program's 35th season. She finished this season with an overall record of 11-11 in singles and a record of 14-10 in doubles, including a streak of nine straight wins alongside Camille Jania.
The former Ivy League Rookie of the Year and current member of the second team All-Ivy League, shares with us some of her ideas on chocolates and her most memorable moment on the tennis court here at Harvard and what the teams trip to California for spring break entailed. She is a native of London, England and will graduate this June with a degree in Social Anthropology.
What is your area of concentration at
How has it prepared for life when you graduate?
I've learnt to really value and appreciate difference and to never judge. I think that anthropology has also made me realise how our thinking and actions are often based on uninformed preconceptions. As such, I've learnt to identify these unfounded assumptions and challenge them. I think that this habit of not forming opinions on limited information and realising when information is biased or limited, will serve me well in the future.
How have your studies helped you athletically? How have athletics helped you academically?
I think that academics helped me athletically more when I was younger - I was more used to concentrating for long periods of time than my peers were and I was able to transfer that skill into being able to maintain focus on court longer than my peers could. As such, I could train for less hours than my peers, yet still improve as rapidly if not more so, because I would get more out of the practice time than I spent on-court.
My athletics have helped me academically in many ways, but I think perhaps the biggest way is in how it has trained me to respond to pressure. My time spent playing tennis competitively has definitely made me a person who rises to a challenge and performs in high-pressure/high-stress situations, even outside of athletics.
You've played tennis for a while now, how many different countries did you play when you lived in your native England?
I travelled quite a lot to represent Great Britain internationally so I have competed in 14 different foreign countries: France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, U.S., Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Australia.
There are some pretty good candies that are imported from England, name a couple of your favorites for the readers?
Cadbury's chocolate! For some reason Cadbury's sweets made in England taste so much better than the same products made in the USA. If I had to specify, I would choose Cadbury's Chocolate Fingers, Galaxy's Minstrels and Chocolate Smarties.
Tell us about the trip to California. Besides the four matches, what else did you and your teammates do with an entire week out west?
We held a clinic at a local club on our first day out there and on the other days we had either practice or matches. We were staying with host families - myself and a few others were lucky enough to get housed in an amazing beach house, so most of us spent what free time we had out on the beach, even if it was still a little on the cold side to be tanning. Evenings were mostly centred around a good dinner and then either relaxing with a book or watching movies.
What has been your favorite moment as a member of the tennis team here at Harvard?
Of all the memories there are, the first that springs to mind right now is from earlier this season when we beat Boston College, 4-3, in a really tight match - wWe were down 3-2 and then Camille Jania and Agnes Sibilski both came back to win their third sets... The energy and desire that everyone, either playing or cheering, showed was incredible. I think that that is a moment I will treasure for a long time - not so much because we pulled out the win, but more because of the electric atmosphere that brought everyone together.
Which schools do you consider to be your biggest rival?
Probably Princeton, Penn and Yale.
Who got you started in tennis?
Was there any tennis player that you used to or still look up to?
I've never really had any one idol.
Who is the most famous person you have ever met?
What do usually do to get prepared for a tennis match? Any pre-match rituals?
After warming up I just try and switch off - I don't like to think about the match itself so I just relax and keep my mind clear so that I can focus right away when I get on-court.
Which subway system is better, London's Underground or the T?
Probably London, although it's still not great. London's underground is bigger, slightly more modern and faster, but there can still be a lot of delays.
How many states have you traveled to in the U.S.?
Twelve: Massachussetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, New York, DC, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, New Mexico, California and Hawaii.
Your father attended the Harvard Business School, was there any allure to Harvard because of that?
In all honesty, not really - we all saw him as more of a Cambridge University alum than an HBS alum. I'd never even considered Harvard until I was contacted by the coach.
Outside of racquet sports, if you and your teammates were all selected to play another sport at Harvard (i.e. field hockey, football), what sport would suit the team best?
Choose the better sandwich, tuna or peanut butter and jelly?
Peanut butter and jelly.
Coffee or tea?
Tea! (black, with milk but no sugar).
Chelsea or Manchester United?
I don't really follow football or support any team.
Rain or snow?
What is favorite Harvard athletic event to watch?