Two years ago, talented Ukrainian teenager Viktoriya Lushkova was 30th in the world in juniors, and thinking about turning pro.
That's when family friend and former OSU number one Vlad Bondarenko stepped in and delivered an almost perfect match. "He said, ‘hey, I think you need to contact this girl I know from home,' and so he gave me her information,” said OSU women's tennis head coach Chris Young. “I did a quick search of her ranking, and everything, and I said, ‘yes, I will be contacting her.'"
Lushkova signed with OSU without even visiting Stillwater beforehand. "I came here like really late night. I was only on the Perkins Road and the coach was like ‘it's the main road of this city' and I was like ‘what?' Lushkova elaborated. “Then when the sun comes up, I went on campus. I visit everything, and I actually really like it because it's so close and convenient."
It's also much quieter than back home. The unrest in Crimea and the Ukraine, and spending part of Christmas break there in a city without electricity was a challenge.
Now, worrying about her parents' and two little sisters' safety is a daily part of her college life. "There's shooting and bombing and I'm like, ‘what?' So, I'm calling my parents immediately and they're like 'no, we're good,' and, I'm just like ‘why are you not telling me? I don't want to find out from other people what's going on.'"
The tennis star is only 18, and already an All-American. "In my mind she's the best player in the country,” stated Young. “I think she's so competitive and wants to do everything so perfectly that sometimes she's a little too hard on herself. And, I would expect she could win a national championship by the time she's done."
Oklahoma State opens play in the Big 12 Women's Tennis Championship on Friday in Waco against Kansas.