By Andrew Tomsky, NAU Media Relations
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Nearing the end of their four-year careers at NAU, Hungarian seniors Orsi Golovics and Edit Suhajda have established themselves among the greatest players in program history. Both are three time All-Big Sky selections, with a fourth honor for each likely coming at the end of the season. They have combined for five All-Big Sky first team selections and are two of only six players in program history to earn multiple All-Big Sky first team honors.
The two grew up together playing tennis in their Eastern European home and together won the Hungarian doubles championship at age 17. Suhajda hails from the capital city of Hungary, Budapest, while Golovics grew up just 15 miles north in Szentendre. Their friendship grew on the tennis court, and when they had the opportunity to continue playing together in America while earning collegiate degrees, they jumped at the opportunity, despite some early apprehension.
"When I met them for the first time they were very shy and unsure of themselves, but the more and more they were around the team they grew," said their head coach, NAU director of tennis Kim Bruno. "They will graduate from here as mature women, both tennis-wise and in terms of their self confidence.
"When I came to Flagstaff, it was my very first time on a plane, and having Edit there made me feel much more secure," said Golovics regarding the three-plane, 20 hour excursion needed to make it to the state of Arizona. "When I had problems with English and anything else, she was there to help me. We always helped each other and supported each other through these four years."
"I was following her; it didn't matter where she was going, because I was too scared to go anywhere alone," said Suhajda while recalling her decision to join Golovics in coming to America.
Though they had each other, the pair still had a lot to learn from their coaches and teammates, both on and off the court.
"When I first got here I was really shy and didn't know how to do things on my own, but now I can stand up for myself and can handle problems on my own. Being a part of the team really helped me learn how to understand other people and be self confident," said Golovics.
They also had two American teammates who joined them as freshmen in 2008, fellow seniors Yumi Hasegawa and Aimee Oki, who helped them get acclimated to college life. The quartet played together throughout their careers and each served as starters and team leaders for the last-two seasons.
"Having four great players coming in at the same time was such a blessing, and having Yumi and Aimee push them and help them grow as tennis players and people was huge," said Bruno. "The four of them created a very unique friendship and bond that made each of them outstanding players and leaders for our team."
"Tennis is very different at home as well, so they helped us learn the differences and motivated us to improve," added Golovics. "It was difficult in the beginning but they really helped us to be successful."
The road to Northern Arizona wasn't easy, as the pair had to take several standardized tests to become eligible for the university, including the SAT's - in English. But both are more than content with their decision to come to Flagstaff and with having studied in programs that appealed to their individual interests. They have even taken to informally recruiting some younger Hungarian tennis prodigies to follow in their steps to NAU. While their ultimate goals lay outside of tennis - Suhajda is interested in become a film director while Golovics would like to eventually start her own business – the indelible mark they have left on this program is reflected in what they have meant to their coach.
"As a coach you learn new things from all of your players. With Edit and Orsi, I learned how to communicate effectively with athletes that came here from a very different culture," reflected Bruno. "Americans are brought up very differently, and being able to learn how to deal with those cultural issues was invaluable for me. My relationship with them really developed into something special over the last four years."
As they near the end of their collegiate careers, both Golovics and Suhajda are sad to be leaving their teammates but are eager to see what their futures will hold.
"I'm excited about my future, but it will be really hard to leave the team and all of the people that have become my family over the last four years," said Golovics, who has applied to graduate school at Northern Arizona in hopes of pursuing an MBA while remaining in Flagstaff.
"I'm excited to be done with school, but I know that I will miss the team and that makes me sad," added Suhajda, one of only three players in program history to be a three time All-Big Sky first team selection. "I don't really know yet what I want to do in the future. I will be going back home to start but I may come back to the United States and be a graduate student. There is more of this country and culture that I want to experience."
Whether they remain in the United States or return home, both have learned a lot from their experiences and feel that the future of the NAU tennis program is in good hands.
"I feel like this will be a really good team, with the players that are coming back and the new recruits who may be joining them," said Suhajda. "I think our younger teammates can step up and keep the team moving forward."
Bruno has a tough time putting into words all that her two Hungarian stars have meant to the development of her team.
"What they've meant to this program is beyond words. They are the hardest workers and the most respectful kids you could ever meet," said Bruno. "Their accolades speak for themselves in terms of their tennis talent, but what they've brought off the court as well will be irreplaceable."