Senior All-American Yana Koroleva shares her inside experiences from Clemson's wild weekend, which included advancing to the Sweet 16, and her achievement of a very unlikely personal goal.
Koroleva is from Moscow, Russia and graduated with a degree in Communication Studies.
Here it comes, my first blog post as Clemson alumna. I have to apologize for the long break since my last post; transition from student to alumna took all my time and energy. But now I am done with school and I have all the time in the world to update you on our team happenings.
For me this past weekend was absolutely crazy. We had the First Round of the NCAA Championship scheduled on Friday, at about same time as my graduation. The whole week we have been making phone calls and arrangements to reschedule the graduation time and finally I was set to walk at 6:30 p.m. The match time was at 1 p.m. and even though there was plenty of time before graduation, I couldn’t stop thinking about it while we were at the courts (skip to 1:28 mark of the video below).
When in the middle of singles matches, the sky suddenly got dark and rain poured all over courts, my heart went pounding. We gathered in the locker room to wait for the decision whether we will be able to continue playing outside or go indoors. I couldn’t stop looking at the clock - and the girls, who noticed how nervous I was, tried to calm me down. Graduation day was very special to me for various reasons. An average student goes through a few graduation ceremonies in their academic career- kindergarten, high school, college, various proms and ceremonies…But I had never before attended any of those, not even prom. This was the first time I tried on a graduation gown and cap, which I bought about 3 months ago and have been looking at them hanging in my closet every day.
I googled how to dress for graduation and looked for a perfect outfit for months. Not many people know it, but I never completed traditional high school. I dropped out after the 9th grade and completed my GED diploma, so I never thought I would even go to college. Yet, three years ago I was admitted to Clemson University on a tennis scholarship. I almost failed my very first biology class during my freshman year and I remember calling my dad, crying like a baby, telling him that I will fail out of school and that I just can’t do it!
On Tuesday after my last ever exam week in Clemson I checked iRoar for final grades, it showed that I finally pulled out a 4.0 semester. That only meant one thing: I am graduating with Cum Laude honors. Can you believe it?! From a high school dropout to Cum Laude graduate?! All the hard work paid off and sleepless nights in Cooper Library were totally worth it. The only thing left to do was walk up that stage, shake the President’s hand and receive my diploma. Now you see why I was so nervous about not making it to the graduation.
After the nerve-wracking wait in the locker room, they finally moved the match indoors and I quickly finished my match, winning 6-2, 6-2. Just minutes after I was done, Tristen clinched the match and we moved to the Second Round of NCAAs. I went down to the courts to give girls high-fives when Coach Nancy signaled: “Go! You have to make it to your graduation!”
My fellow graduate Annie (Yuilynn Miao) and I sprinted to the car; it was time to make ourselves look like real grads! We made it to Littlejohn Coliseum at about 6:20 p.m., just 10 minutes before the start of the ceremony. People at the registration table asked us why we were so late.-“Sorry, we just finished the match. Oh yes, we won!” They kindly helped us to find our name cards and place in line - the last two.
It felt like we were in the Harry Potter movie. Graduates were everywhere and professors were dressed in Ph.D gowns, looking like they just came out of some magical world. Both Annie and I were nervous, patiently waiting for our names to be called throughout the two-hour-long ceremony. Finally it was time and I approached the stage and handed my name card to Billy D, who was calling out names of all graduates. He smiled and announced my name in front of thousands of attendees in Littlejohn. Suddenly I wasn’t nervous anymore; I was walking towards our President and couldn’t stop smiling. I had my diploma in my hand and my teammate behind my back. We did it!!!
Annie’s family was in Taiwan and mine was in Russia, but we did not feel lonely at graduation. As our names were called, we heard loud cheers from the stands- every one of our teammates came to watch us graduate. Our FAMILY was right there for us.
The next day we had one more task to accomplish-win the 2nd round of NCAA regionals against Auburn. It started raining again after we warmed up for about 20 minutes, but this time I was not in a hurry and didn’t mind waiting. After an hour wait in the locker room we came back outside to continue warming up. About a dozen people were drying the courts for us and guess who was there?! Billy D smiled at us and kept drying the courts, as if he did not spend about 12 hours announcing names at graduation just a day ago! Can’t help but be amazed what an incredible and energetic person he is. Some Clemson football players were there to help too, including veteran and Purple Heart recipient Daniel Rodriguez. Apparently after seeing what a great team we had working on the courts, Mother Nature figured that it was better to let us play! Tigers were All In! We were able to play the whole match outdoors and we swept Auburn 5-0 to move on to Sweet Sixteen!
This means that my career as a Tiger is not yet over! We will head to Athens, GA to fight for the National Championship and our first match will be against…Duke. It is revenge time and I have a feeling it will be a fun one! I am so excited to go on this ride with my girls before I will officially become a former Tiger. Well, actually…Once a Tiger, always a Tiger! Just hopefully I will always be a Tiger…with a National Championship under my belt!