Joe Dodson, Contributing Writer
When junior tennis player Paola Diaz-Delgado arrived in Richmond, she had little experience playing doubles. That quickly changed when she was paired with senior Noumea Witmus.
Diaz-Delgado struggled at first with doubles; she didn’t like the idea of letting down someone else on the court and was used to playing the game her way. But playing alongside Witmus has changed Diaz-Delgado’s perspective and taught her a lot about playing doubles.
“She knew a lot, and when she was playing, she was confident,” Diaz-Delgado said. “Her playing confidence made me more confident.”
Witmus has had the opportunity to mentor Diaz-Delgado during their time together. The pair first connected because of Diaz-Delgado’s humble attitude when she arrived at VCU. Since then, Witmus has seen a transformation in her partner.
“She would probably be the nicest person you’ll find at VCU,” Witmus said. “This year, I really noticed how she matured in her game, in the way she is here and with other teammates. It’s really nice how you can see people grow here.”
The duo has gone 7-2 as a doubles partnership to start the spring season. Since they were paired in fall 2017, they have gone 18-10.
Diaz-Delgado and Witmus have the same approach to tennis both tactically and mentally. According to Witmus, coach Paul Kostin described them as a “wall” because of their consistency on the defensive end.
“We have similar games in doubles,” Witmus said. “We’re not really aggressive players, we’re more defensive and wait our turn.”
The pair prefers to play their matches with composure rather than on edge. They support and encourage each other while knowing each other’s limits.
“Normally your partners push you too much and you don’t wanna be there,” Diaz-Delgado said. “With her, it never happened like that.”
The two players have plenty of trust for each other. Both have had matches in which they’ve relied on the other to carry them to the win.
Witmus recalled the duo’s loss in the fall regionals to Marshall as an instance when Diaz-Delgado stepped up during the match. Witmus thought they were over their heads until Diaz-Delgado took a more dominant role in returning balls that she thought were unreachable.
“If I am not playing my game and I’m missing balls, then I know she will stay, play her own game and I can count on that,” Witmus said.
Diaz-Delgado did not know very much English when she came to VCU, which made it harder for her to connect with her teammates. Now in her third year, she is much more comfortable with the group, and Witmus has been someone she can count on.
“In the beginning, it was harder because I wasn’t talking a lot,” Diaz-Delgado said. “Through this year our relationship has improved a lot. Honestly, I think she’s one of my best friends here.”