Sophia Cordoba is ready to step out of her shell.
She has enjoyed a successful career for the Ames girls tennis team entering her senior season. She won four matches as the team’s No. 2 singles player as a junior.
But she’s ready to do more during her final go-around with the Little Cyclones.
“I just want to compete at a higher level and be more bold on the court,” Cordoba said. “Because of my scrappy play, I get kind of shy on the court and try to keep everything in, but without actually attacking. This year, I’m looking to attack more. ”
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Cordoba has played tennis on and off since she was 8 years old. She participated in a bubble league at the Ames Raquet and Fitness Center and took individual lessons on and off up until high school.
That experience gave Cordoba an edge when she joined the Ames team as a freshman.
“Freshman year, I realized I had a lot more basics down than everybody else,” Cordoba said. “I’d already started playing at the varsity level. A lot of my fellow seniors started playing their sophomore year. ”
Cordoba got to watch Ames’ talented varsity team win state her freshman year. But her sophomore year was taken away due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She wasn’t able to continue playing at Ames Raquet and Fitness due to the pandemic, too. But she continued to keep her game sharp by going up against her father, Juan Cordoba.
“My dad plays tennis and he has really hard serves,” Cordoba said. “I’m kind of used to having to receive those. My services aren’t particularly fast, but I can definitely return them. ”
Thanks to her dad’s help and her own natural abilities, Cordoba developed the ability to run down tough shots and return them. Her scrappy play earned her the No. 2 singles spot as a junior.
“She does a really great job at using top spin to keep the ball in play,” Ames co-head coach Anna Ellis said. “You can see how her rally ball pushes her opponent deep and out wide. Beyond the action on her ground strokes, she has a mature presence on the court. Her experience enables her to make smart choices in the big moments.”
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Cordoba has also formed a strong No. 2 doubles team for Ames with Suya Que.
“We mesh with each other really well on the court,” Que said. “We can make up for each other’s weaknesses.”
But Cordoba is not satisfied with her game.
“I used to be very shy at the net,” Cordoba said. “I’m kind of short, so I’ve never had a lot of confidence. Going into this year, I’ve tried to get a lot more involved there. ”
Her coaches acknowledge she could be more aggressive. But they like what they’ve seen from her thus far.
“Sophia puts in the work,” Ellis said. “We’ve had a few times with Sophia where we focus on something specific – her backhand slice, her hip rotation on the serve, etc. Her fundamentals are better than ever this year and we are excited to see how that plays out on the court. “
Cordoba is also incorporating a lot of what she learned from 2021 Ames graduate and three-time state place-winner Arunadee Fernando.
“She was like an assistant coach for me,” Cordoba said. “She gave me a lot of advice. I could watch her serve technique and get a really good idea of what to do. Playing with her and being able to practice returning at such a fast pace and such creative shots was really good to have. ”
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So far it’s paying off.
Cordoba lost her opening singles match to Ankeny Centennial’s Jenna Benkofsky in straight sets, 6-4 and 7-6 (11-9). But her effort in the second set marathon was outstanding.
Cordoba and Que also won their doubles match with a pair of 6-2 victories.
“I think she’s improved her confidence,” Que said. “She’s managed to keep consistent as well.”
Cordoba said she’d like to finish her career playing at state. But the real legacy she wants to leave behind is helping her younger teammates grow as players to help build the program back up to where it was when she was a freshman.
Ames defeated Centennial in its opener Monday, 6-5. Cordoba plans to keep that momentum going and help build up confidence for the younger players.
“In the past, varsity and JV didn’t interact much,” Cordoba said. “This year, we have a ton of freshmen coming in. We want to give them more experience playing at a higher level. We want the Ames tradition to continue after we’re gone. ”