Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Intensity is an important component to almost every sport, but for Kansas sophomore tennis player Dylan Windom, it is something that defines her game when she is out on the court.
"A lot of my teammates know me by my fist pump," Windom said. "They all love it."
The Tifton, Ga. native's signature move is more than sign of celebration. For her, and for a number of her Jayhawk teammates, it serves as a motivator during hard-fought matches throughout the season.
"Like our coach (Amy Hall-Holt) says, ‘When everybody is intense, fist-pumping and yelling at each other, you win,'" she reiterated. "When the momentum is going your way and you are pumping yourself up, you are unbeatable."
Windom's calling card usually comes during a match when things and the energy are on her side of the court. It is something her opponents just can't help but notice.
"I look at the other player and I just do this," Windom explains (as she holds her fist out in front of her and pumps it back and forth). "(Volunteer assistant coach) Boomer (Saia) tells me it looks like I am shaking my fist at my opponent."
Regardless of how it comes across to her cross-net counterpart, Windom's head coach is just glad her standout sophomore practices what she preaches.
"That competitiveness makes her very unique and special to this program," Coach Hall-Holt said. "She has so much passion for the game and the University as a whole that it enables her to keep that competiveness at a high level."
That quality is one that has come in handy for the second-year student-athlete, who often finds herself in long-grueling matches during the challenging Big 12 Conference schedule. One of those marathon matches came late last month against nationally-ranked Baylor, when Windom outdualed BU freshman Megan Horter, 6-7, 7-6, 12-10.
"During the Baylor match I was down 7-6, 5-2 and I don't really know what clicked in my head but I came back and won," she remembered. "I was just saying to myself, ‘stick with your game plan, keep your composure and do it for your record and your team'".
That never-give-up attitude seems to rub off on her fellow teammates and is why Windom's coach sees the fist pumping Georgia peach as one of her team's leaders.
"She just thrives off of everyone wanting to do well and everyone on the team competing at a high level, so I think her way of being a leader is by example," Hall-Holt said. "Her presence is very much respected because everyone knows how hard she works, not only on the court, but in the classroom."
That hard work paid off following her freshman season, as Windom compiled a 14-7 overall record in singles competition and earned a national ranking of 67th in doubles play. Her sophomore campaign has been equally as promising as she has won 14 singles matches, while earning 10 victories playing with a partner.
In 2012 Windom started strong, winning her first five singles matches and nine out of her first 10, but a four-match losing streak in the middle of the season made her anxious to get back into the win column.
"I hate losing, it is horrible," explained the ultra-competitive underclassman. "I was not used to losing entering my sophomore year so I wanted to win every match, but the Big 12 is really tough in tennis. Most teams are top-30 in the nation."
Windom has shown her mettle thus far during the conference campaign, notching singles victories against 16th-ranked Texas A&M and No. 13 Baylor.
"I am not upset with my results so far this year," Windom thought. "I know I am playing well and I still have a couple matches left to play."
That positive yet determined attitude is one that her head coach believes helps Windom, as she has some high expectations for herself as well as the team.
"She has embraced everything that has been put out there for her as far as goals that I have set, or that she has set for herself," Hall-Holt said. "That's why everybody buys into the goals she sets for the team, because she leads by example."
"Sometimes I put too much pressure on myself, especially in doubles," Windom thought. "When the (ITA) rankings came out in January, we were 29th, so of course I felt pressure that my doubles partner and I had to lead the team. Eventually I had to learn how to play relaxed and without tons of pressure on my back."
With just a pair of matches left to play in the regular season during the next week, Windom's teammates will surely welcome her high expectations and the intensity that comes along with them. While the second-year Jayhawk will be working hard on the courts to get that ‘W' for herself, her coach knows she will be focused on the bigger picture.
"She is much more than Dylan Windom, she is Dylan Windom playing on the KU tennis team," Coach Hall-Holt explained. "And it is very rewarding for me to see an athlete playing with that type of mentality."
So the next time someone watches a Kansas tennis match and sees an intense fist pump coming from someone wearing Crimson and Blue, they'll know its Dylan Windom, who is displaying that excitement for not just herself, but the rest of her team.