Nov. 6, 2000
EASTON, Pa. (www.lafayette.edu) - Ryan Collins did not start his tennis career at Lafayette the way he would have liked to last year. The civil engineering major was getting the job done in the classroom as a freshman Marquis Scholar, earning a 3.69 grade-point average, but he didn't feel like he was living up to his potential on the tennis court, even though he earned a record of 8-3 and started the season on a 7-0 tear at the No. 5 seed.
The disappointment Collins felt after last season, however, turned into determination and confidence this fall as the sophomore earned a 7-0 regular season record as Lafayette's No. 3 seed and won the ECAC title in his singles spot.
So, what changed over the summer that made the Whitehouse, N.J., native snap out of his so-called funk? A new sense of focus and confidence.
"I know as far as my record goes, how I did last season doesn't look terrible," he said. "But I knew I could do better and that I wasn't playing my best tennis. This fall I did really well and I'm playing at a higher level of tennis."
Just like that, Collins has gone from playing at the team's lower seeds (five, six or seven) to dominating at one of its highest. Often times this fall, he was relied upon to give the Leopards a win in their close matches and he is happy that the team has that confidence in him. He is also relied upon in doubles competition, playing the No. 2 seed with freshman teammate Mike Durette.
"I feel so confident having Ryan in that No. 3 spot," head men's and women's tennis coach Barbara Young said. "He's someone we can always count on and he has gained a tremendous sense of consistency and composure."
But the student-athlete's life has not been completely dedicated to improving on the court this fall. In addition to his tennis practice schedule, Collins is the treasurer of the Newman Association and he is a member of the College's jazz ensemble. He's also thinking of picking up a minor in economics to go along with his engineering classes.
"I think the greatest challenge I've had so far at Lafayette was figuring out how to manage my time," Collins said. "Academics always comes before tennis so it gets rough in the spring when the team practices two hours everyday and we have two or three matches a week and I still have to do my engineering work. But I know I can't waste a lot of time and I have to make sure taking breaks is kept to a minimum."
His coach believes that it was Ryan's work ethic during the off-season that propelled him from a lower seed to a top three player. "He always had a big power serve and at first he just tried to use that 120 mph serve to overpower his opponents. The difference now is that he uses that serve to help develop the point and he uses all of the other elements of his game to put the ball away," Young said.
The practice schedule during the spring season doesn't faze Collins as it would some others playing at the Division I level. He was raised in a family that plays tennis regularly and he practically grew up with a racquet in his hand. He was also raised in a household with a very strong role model to look up to.
Collins' dad is also an engineer and Ryan learned his work ethic from watching his father. Working late hours to support the family but also being involved in all aspects of the household made an impression on the future Leopard.
"My dad has made the greatest impact on my life. I know how much time he spent working to support our family but he always had time for us. He would work long hours but he always had time to ask me how my day was," he said.
When Collins decided on Lafayette after graduating from Hunterdon Central Regional H.S., it was no shock to his family. His older sister had been a student on College Hill, graduating in 1998, and he knew that the school could offer him an outstanding education, ultimately leading to a degree in chemical engineering. But he also knew it was a place where he would have the opportunity to play tennis.
"I had been here a few times when my sister was a student here so I got a feel for the campus and the area. But when I was offered the Marquis Scholarship and I realized I could compete here on the tennis team, my mind was made up," he said.
It was during one of those trips he made to visit his sister, who was also a Marquis Scholar and a member of the women's tennis team, that he met Young. "I must have first met him when he was 13 years old," Young said. "And he always seemed to have a strong game, even back then."
Asked about his approach to training during the winter to get ready for the spring season Collins explains that he plans on continuing to keep his level of play high and his expectations even higher.
"I put all my effort in at practices and I try to play with my heart and give it all I can. Some days aren't as good as others but I go out there feeling like I am the best one on the court and there's always a way for me to win."
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