Jan. 29, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - It was 1 degree - that's Fahrenheit, folks -- for a low Tuesday morning, not long before Anna Pomyatinskaya and her Marshall teammates headed indoors to the Huntington Tennis Center for the second dual match of the 2013-14 season.
"Today, in Celsius, it's minus-19, and I've never seen it or felt it this cold before, but I can deal with it," Pomyatinskaya said a few hours later.
OK, that seemed understandable. The first-semester freshman at MU hails from Sochi, and while the Russian port on the Black Sea is home to the upcoming Winter Olympics, the city is known for its temperate climate.
The rest of the story?
Pomyatinskaya was Siberian-born, in the western city of Nyagan - the same native gown of her famous tennis cousin, Maria Sharapova, who also made the Siberia-to-Sochi move before becoming a star.
Colder in Huntington than in Siberia?
"It's pretty cold there, I'm sure, but I don't really remember it," the 17-year-old Pomyatinskaya said, smiling. "We moved to Sochi when I was about 2 1/2."
And she moved to Florida 18 months ago, where Herd Coach John Mercer recruited the promising Russian, who has dropped only six games in a pair of straight-set singles wins as Marshall has opened with wins over Radford and Morehead State.
"Being here (2 1/2 weeks) has completely changed my mind about college tennis," Pomyatinskaya said. "I always wanted to be part of a team, on the court, cheering for others, seeing how it is to play for the team, and I really enjoy it.
"It's more than just playing for yourself. The team, this is the reason I came here, and I love it and love this place. The people are so nice. This is how I'm going to be living for four years and I'm happy with that."
She's also enthused about the Olympics in her hometown, and said she doesn't concern herself with the recurring reports about the potential for terrorism disrupting the Sochi Games.
"I think the Games should be good, and I think my city is prepared, and prepared to be a good host," Pomyatinskaya said. "It's going to be tough for people who live in Sochi, because it's going to be so crowded.
"But it's going to be for the best for Sochi, too. People will see what it's like, (the city will be) more in play, good for jobs, and it's a good thing we got it. I wasn't really thinking about any trouble, but I'm hoping it's not going to happen, and it's not constantly in my thoughts."
Asked about the un-winterlike temperatures that may accompany the Sochi Games, Pomyatinskaya said she thought the choice of a Russian city appropriate for February competition.
"I think it's better we have Winter Games there rather than Summer Games, because we we're better prepared for Winter Games," she said. "Russia is associated with cold weather, so it's good ... it's going to be really cool that everything happens right there, places I know, and it will be great watching it on TV."
Pomyatinskaya said that while she advanced her game at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., she appreciates more the team concept of NCAA tennis, as the Herd remains home at the indoor courts in Barboursville for matches Saturday with West Virginia and Sunday against 54th-ranked Virginia Tech.
"At IMG, there were a lot of people, academy tennis, a hundred or so, a lot of different players," Pomyatinskaya said. "Here, in the matches, there are different players, and I think the caliber is little bit higher. Even in practices, there's competition, trying to get better and better, and you're competing with better players every time I go on the court. It will help me become a better player.
"I had a couple of other options ... I went (for visits) to Stetson and New Mexico. I chose Marshall because of the team. All of the schools were pretty much the same, but when I got here to visit, it seemed like a family. Everyone was together, so sweet, and I decided I wanted to be a part of this team."
Pomyatinskaya is just happy that's she's finally hurdled and cut through the governmental red tape that kept her from arriving at Marshall as scheduled to start her college days last August. Her family had placed her in a Green Card lottery, and it took efforts through embassies, two nations, lawyers and MU's international studies staff to untangle the situation.
"It was worth the wait to get here, but it was frustrating," said Pomyatinskaya, who won't turn 18 until April 25 and is the Herd's third-youngest student-athlete. "It was terrible, I was supposed to be here and play and help the team and I felt terrible because they only had five players (last semester).
"So, I was really nervous. When I was done with one paper, the second one came, done with that, the third one came ... Oh, my gosh, you have no idea. It was tons of paperwork, tons of signatures, tons of mail. We tried to set up everything as early as possible, but it didn't work out for me to be here until January.
"I'm finally here now, and I'm happy. I really like it here."
Yes, even when it's minus-19 Celsius.