COLLEGE TENNIS SPOTLIGHT: Emma Higuchi
Emma Higuchi doesn’t know any other feeling than ending a college tennis season playing on the sports’ grandest stage.
The Hollywood resident recently concluded her junior season winning her second consecutive national title as a key singles contributor for the Stanford University women’s team holding down the No. 6 spot.
By shutting out No. Georgia 4-0 in the championship, the Cardinal won its third national title in the last four years, and it was Stanford’s fourth consecutive trip to the final.
With five seniors graduating, Higuchi knows it will be tough to make it back to the national title match for a fourth straight time during her senior season in 2020. But with San Diego’s Nicole Mossmer included amongst a talented group of recruits, Stanford should be able to reload and be favored to defend their title.
“I didn’t play some of the earlier rounds at NCAAs so I felt fresh going into the final,” said Higuchi, who did not play in her team’s 4-2 win over North Carolina in the semifinals. “I know when my teammates are in there they will do great and it was nice to see a freshman (Sara Choy) win at No. 6 in the semifinals.
Stanford head coach Lele Farood made the decision to go with the experience of Higuchi at No. 6 in the final match, although her match went unfinished with Higuchi up a set.
“Coach told me after the match against North Carolina that I would play in the championship,” Higuchi said. “When you play for a team there is added pressure, but our team is like family and everyone supports one another. I trust my coach and teammates, and hopefully they do the same with me.”
Higuchi is on pace to graduate next spring and is studying Human Biology, but is contemplating on switching her major to Pre-Med. This summer, she will be returning home to do a research internship at Children’s Hospital.
“I might try to play a couple of tournaments and last year I played some of the ITA Summer Circuit events here in SoCal,” Higuchi said. “It wasn’t until I went away to school and had to balance classes and a social life that you realize how much time you actually end up playing. It is a lot so if I don’t play as much this summer I think I will be fresh in the fall.”
Higuchi was a top-ranked SoCal junior and traveled to Paris for Les Petit As, the top 14-and-under tournament for the world’s best juniors and also played in the Junior World Games.
She never had travel far for good practice and competition with a core group of players training at the USTA Training Center in Carson. She played Junior Sectionals, the Easter Bowl, and had some nice wins in the Open division at The Ojai. But her favorite SoCal tournament?
“The JP Yamasaki Tournament was my favorite,” Higuchi said of the event played at the Anaheim Tennis Center. “I won every age division. I just like the way the center court sits, and it sounds really good when you hit the ball.”
Four straight trips to the NCAA final – that is the goal for Higuchi as she enters her final season at Stanford, a team that always plays its best tennis at just the right time.
“We have a good schedule and don’t push ourselves in the beginning,” Higuchi said. “We are able to peak at the right time. The coaches say, if everyone can improve just one percent, that is contributing a lot to the team.”