Getting to Know Celia Fraser and Dionne Sanders
May 7, 2014
Fraser and Sanders have served as the vocal leaders all year long for a Houston squad that managed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998 and for just the third time in program history.
Fraser was named the captain of the team prior to the season due to her superb leadership on and off the tennis courts. The senior has gone 13-11 in overall singles play and 6-6 in dual action this season, while she’s currently won two consecutive matches.
Fraser currently boasts an all-time record of 64-49, while she holds an overall doubles mark of 51-32. She’s also currently ranked seventh on the school’s all-time single-season doubles win percentage list, as she collected victories in just over 83 percent of her doubles matches during the 2012-13 season.
In 2013, she was just one of five student-athletes named to the Conference USA All-Academic Team, while she’s a three-time Conference USA Academic Medal recipient, three-time Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll award winner, and a two-time ITA Scholar Athlete honoree.
Sanders also made her mark as a four-year letterwinner for the Cougars, as she has compiled a 36-33 overall singles record and a 25-31doubles mark during her collegiate career.
Sanders notched a career-best 16 singles victories last season, while she boasts a perfect 10-0 record from the No. 5 and No. 2 positions in her time with the Cougars.
She currently stands as a three-time Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll recipient, while she also took home ITA Scholar-Athlete honors back in 2012.
Both from the United Kingdom, both Sanders and Fraser know each other well, as the two have been roommates since their freshman years.
UHCougars.com: You two are seniors, so obviously a big year for you both already. But how does it feel to be a senior on one of the best teams in program history?
Sanders: It’s been really great actually. I wasn’t able to contribute too much on the court this season, but I like to think I’ve been one of the leaders off the court, helping some of our younger girls. It’s been rewarding watching them grow throughout the year. Everyone on this team has worked extremely hard this year and I think we deserve this moment.
Fraser: It really has been an honor to be the team captain on such a special team such as this one. I think our team chemistry is a big reason why we’re one of the best teams in the nation. It’s been a difficult year for me on the court because of my knee injury, but it looks like I might be healthy enough to compete in the NCAA Tournament (May 9) and my birthday is on May 9, so that would be a great birthday present if I can play and we win!
UHCougars.com: You both have been a part of some tough seasons. What’s been the main difference this year compared to years past?
Fraser: I think every year has its ups and downs, that’s just the way it works. But I think this year’s group is the closest team I’ve ever been a part of. We’ve all pulled together to be as good as we can be, but we all also hold each other accountable and push each other to be the best we can be. At the end of the day, we’re all one unit. If someone is having a bad day, the other person picks her up.
UHCougars.com: Dionne, it seems like you all have grown so much as a unit from the beginning of the fall season up until now. How do you explain that?
Sanders: Yeah I mean we have nine different girls with nine very different personalities. We’re all big characters, but I think we blend together well. I think our freshman Tina (Rupert) and Debbie (Despoina Vogasari) have really pushed each other and everyone else. They’re not typical freshman. All we’ve done all season long is just push each other to be the best we can be.”
UHCougars.com: Dionne, you mentioned how everyone pushes each other, but at the end of the day it doesn’t seem to affect the team chemistry. How do you explain that?
Sanders: Oh yeah, we’re definitely one big family. I don’t think anyone gets offended or gets her feelings hurt. I mean we’re all just trying to win. It doesn’t matter whether you play at the No. 1 spot or the No. 6 position, every court counts the same.
UHCougars.com: Celia, this team has squeaked out so many one-point victories or come-from-behind wins this season, and it seems like every time it’s someone different who steps up.
Fraser: Yeah you’re right. There’s not really a weak spot on this team to be honest. I mean during my first few years here I was playing at the No. 1 or No. 2 spot and now this season I play towards the bottom of the order. I think that just speaks to the kind of talent we have on this team now. Like Dionne said before, every point counts the same so it really doesn’t matter where you’re playing. I think we all have that mentality. The first one to get to four wins, as long as we get four points before the other team, that’s all we care about.
UHCougars.com: Let’s step away from tennis now. Celia, besides playing tennis, what is Dionne’s favorite thing to do?
Fraser: She loves the show Scandal.
Sanders: Yep, so true!
Fraser: She likes all kinds of food too! Eating and watching Scandal, it’s a pretty powerful combination for her.
UHCougars.com: Alright Dionne, what does Celia like to do in her free time?
Sanders: She loves eating sushi! I think she’s also starting to get into Scandal. She also always has her iPod in her hand too, listening to classical music.
Fraser: Yeah I actually used to play the piano and the cello, so every now and then I’ll listen to a little Beethoven or a bit of Bach. Sometimes you just have to get away from the R&B!
UHCougars.com: So freshman year you two roomed together. How did that work out?
Sanders: Yeah it’s funny actually. We trained together at the same club in England before we came here. We actually roomed together freshman and sophomore year.
UHCougars.com: So it sounds like you two have a pretty special bond then?
Sanders: Oh yeah we totally do. We know each other’s families and everything too. It’s just nice to spend four years with someone and see her succeed and go through the same things you have. I mean for us to get through freshman year as roommates and not argue once was pretty big achievement. With two girls going through college together, you would think there would be a lot to argue about. But besides having to put up with her classical music, I think we managed to pull through.
UHCougars.com: This next question has been one of the most debated topics on the team throughout the season. Celia, you’re the captain, so your answer is going to carry a lot of weight here. Maria Cardenas claims she’s the best dance on the team. Some of your teammates have agreed, some haven’t. Where do you stand?
Fraser: First of all, you’re right. This is a big issue. Look, I’m not sure if she’s the best dancer, but she’s definitely the most unique dancer on the team so she gets points for that. I’m all for people being different and trying new things, but I’m not going to lie when I first saw her step on the court and show us her moves, I was extremely concerned for her. I mean you can’t fault her for her passion and enthusiasm. She just has to go out there and do her thing!
Dionne: Look I think what we need to do is get a video of her dancing and we can all judge her together.
Fraser: That’s a good call. I think I’ll ask her to dance on video for my birthday present. Plus, I’m senior. Dionne and I will guilt her into it.