Known as “The Rainbow” to her teammates, USF senior tennis player Natalie Schwartz has come a long way since beginning the sport.
Schwartz started playing tennis at a very early age.
“My whole family plays tennis. It’s in my blood,” said Schwartz.Her parents met playing tennis and her older brother used to play. Since she first held a racket, Schwartz has always had strength on her side, but she has learned to use her power. Playing through her high school years and in numerous junior tournaments, Schwartz, a native of West Palm Beach, has been on a quest to be the best.
“Natalie is always trying to improve herself,” said Jackie Spicijaric, Schwartz’s teammate. “I’ve known Nat since we were in junior tournaments together. I am (just) glad she is on my team.”Schwartz moved from the No. 4 position last year to the No. 1 position this year.
It seemed to be a natural progression for the ambitious and headstrong player that Schwartz can be on the court.
“I always knew I had what it takes to play No. 1, and I think that Coach (Sherry) Bedingfield could help my game come together,” said Schwartz. “I feel really comfortable playing No. 1. I am always going to play tough players no matter what team it is.”
“I would have to say that Natalie is my most improved player,” Bedingfield said. “There is no choke in Natalie’s stroke. She has always had power. She has worked on her footwork, shot selection, and to beat her opponent with her brain instead of her powerful shot.”
Schwartz used to play soccer and was involved with gymnastics, but tennis seemed to suit her the most.
“(Tennis) is a challenge. I love playing people that may be better than me because I learn from my mistakes. I play better because I want to beat them.”
Bedingfield wanted to recruit Schwartz as early as their first meeting at a state tournament about five years ago.
“I liked her,” Bedingfield said. “I thought she would fit well in the program. It is always good to find strong Florida players.”
USF teammate Genevieve Houle said, “Natalie has had to work really hard to get where she is. I admire that.”
“She’s a fun person to be around, spontaneous and fun. She doesn’t care what people think but when it comes to her game she is very confident. Natalie is focused and always worked hard. She is special.”
Schwartz is studying art history at USF and hopes to teach art someday. But her next assignment is to take on the Florida International Golden Panthers in the Bulls’ regular-season finale Saturday at the USF Varsity Courts.
Amanda Collins covers women’s tennis and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org