Ramya Kunapalli and Jina Kwon glance at each other and there’s a sliver of silence. And then smiles and laughter abound near the Redmond High tennis courts on Tuesday afternoon.
The two senior captains have given their racquets a workout together for the last four years on the RHS squad, but they’ll be heading to rival colleges in the fall: University of Southern California for Kunapalli and University of California at Los Angeles for Kwon.
They’ll soon be Trojans and Bruins, but for now they’re still Mustangs and the netters are enjoying their last days on the high school courts.
Kunapalli, who plays at No. 3 singles and attends Tesla STEM High School, said that she and Kwon looked up to the older players for guidance when they were freshmen, and now they’re helping the younger girls along the way.
And they’re winning. At press time, the Mustangs sported a 4-3 record in 4A KingCo play and were 6-5 overall. Mustang victors in their 5-2 triumph over Issaquah on Tuesday were: No. 1-4 singles players Diana Koralski, Zofia Kierner, Kunapalli and Sanjali Vurti. Redmond’s No. 3 doubles team of Neerja Natu/Lily Kralyevich also resided in the win column.
Kunapalli likes to unleash her hard forehand on the court and also offers words of team unity when the Mustangs are together.
“I realized that there’s a lot from my four years of experience that I can pass down to the younger girls. As a freshman, I was really stubborn, so I think sportsmanship and getting to know my teammates and cheering everyone on is something that I’ve learned a lot,” said Kunapalli, who will enter USC as a chemical engineer, but will probably switch gears to computer science/business administration.
Kwon likes what awaits her each time she steps onto the RHS tennis scene.
“It’s more like a vibrant environment compared to the previous years, so I really appreciate that,” said Kwon, who plays at No. 4 singles, but is out for the season due to health issues.
Kwon, who plans to play club tennis and major in psychobiology at UCLA, has learned about committing oneself to an activity like tennis during her years at RHS.
She began playing the sport in fourth grade and really dug into it during middle school and high school. A two-handed backhand is her go-to shot, especially when she delivers the ball near the corner lines.
“I like how you have to know the technique, but also it’s mostly mental. You might not have the strokes as much as other people, but if you have the mental down, you can finesse some games in,” she said.
The Reporter asked Kunapalli and Kwon a series of questions for a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their lives:
What’s your favorite movie of all time?
Kwon: “Good Will Hunting.”
Kunapalli: I can’t stay awake for the length of movies (laughs). Probably “Harry Potter.”
What’s your favorite kind of music?
Kwon: I don’t really have a specific type I like, I just like multiple genres. But mostly pop.
Kunapalli: R&B and Bollywood.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Kwon: When people shove me (in the school hallways), just for no reason, just shove me, I get really ticked off for some reason.
Kunapalli: When people tap their pens in the middle of class and during a test.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Kwon: It doesn’t really matter how smart you are, it doesn’t matter how beautiful you are, it really just matters how you treat other people.
Kunapalli: Just be yourself. Don’t try and conform to other people’s standards.
If you could go to dinner with one person, who would that be?
Kwon: My grandma. She passed away three years ago, and I didn’t get to say goodbye because she lived in Korea.
Kunapalli: Michelle Obama or Tinashe, she’s my favorite singer.