Senior spotlight: Sansitha Nandakumar's final ride

BLACKSBURG – Sunday afternoon’s matchup against Florida State marks the final time Sansitha Nandakumar (Coimbatore, India) will walk on the court at the Burrows-Burleson Tennis Center with classmate Francesca Fusinato (Feltre Belluno, Italy). It will be both a joyous and somber day for the Hokie duo and their teammates as they bring an end to their successful collegiate careers that included two NCAA tournament berths and an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) quarterfinal appearance.

Nandakumar will exit as one of the most consistent and motivated student-athletes of coach Terry Ann Zawacki-Woods long 14-year tenure at Virginia Tech, leaving an imprint on the program that will last forever. The senior tackled the bottom half of the lineup throughout her four-year career, playing primarily at the No. 5 and No. 6 singles slot. She currently boasts a 28-24 dual-match singles record and holds a 14-9 mark at the No. 6 slot.

Although her success might not be in her numbers, she has made a tremendous impact on the program – a positive impact on the program.

“She’s always has had such a positive personality,” coach Zawacki-Woods said. “She always does everything we said. She is always respectful and treats her teammates so well. A lot of them look to her to build their confidence or just to talk with her. She has been extremely positive and really fun to coach. She has made a great impact on all her teammates as well as with me and my family. My daughter always looks up to her. It is a very positive thing that she has brought and working with her for four years has been really wonderful.”

Nandakumar has always carried a very positive attitude, and she has used that drive and determination to help her accomplish several feats on the tennis court. Of course, there is that one moment that she will remember for the rest of her life.

“The best memory that I have is my sophomore year at ACC’s,” Nandakumar said. “We beat Boston College and moved on to the quarterfinals [for the first time in program history]. I think that was the moment where we all almost cried when we clinched the match. For me personally, I was playing singles at No. 5, and I was down 6-2, 2-0 down. At that moment, I realized if I lost than the team lost. I don’t know what I did, but I just won it from there.”

Victory has never been sweeter, expect for the time when she took down top-ranked Duke and UNC in one weekend as a freshman. Again, displaying her grit and determination to pull through in tough conference matches.

“They’ve [Fusinato and Nandakumar] always been fantastic since the first day they’ve walked in, but it has been really fun to watch them grow on and off the tennis court and with their personalities,” Zawacki-Woods said. “They’ve always gotten better and better and have had such a big impact on our program. They’ve made our program better. It has been a big difference that has been really positive throughout the four years.”

“It is more than I expected because I had no idea what it was going to be like in the United States,” Nandakumar said. “Coming from India, it was a long way away, and my family is not here. I didn’t know how my coach was going to be or if I was going to make good friends and teammates. Overall, I think it has been a great experience because I love everyone here. My teammates are like my family and I almost feel like this is my home now. It’s great.”

Blacksburg will remain Nandakumar’s home, at least for the next year or two, as she plans on graduating in the fall after completing her bachelor’s degree in economics. She also will remain on the team as a volunteer coach with hopes of graduate school in the near future.

“I’m going to finish my minor and go to grad school for sport management,” Nandakumar said. “I’m still figuring out where I want to go, but for now, I’m going to be here for one more year.”

And for now, here is home. Once a Hokie, always a Hokie.

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