Mariana Bedon was five days away from her 17th birthday when she was put into Temple’s lineup against Villanova on March 23, 2014.
The 16-year-old freshman faced off against Villanova senior Anne Cognetti in the sixth flight of the team’s Big 5 rivalry match. In what seemed like a daunting task for a player that young, Bedon dominated Cognetti and completed an 8-0 shutout victory.
The now 20-year-old senior from Trujillo, Peru said most students in Peru graduate high school at 17 years old. After skipping a grade in middle school, Bedon received her diploma a year early and left for the United States.
“It was crazy,” Bedon said. “It was definitely shocking, and I had to adjust to a lot of things. But the team was great and everyone was supportive.”
Bedon was eligible to play for the Owls in Fall 2013 as a 16-year-old freshman. While her age was unusual, Bedon’s talent made up for her lack of experience. Coach Steve Mauro said when he began to recruit Bedon, she was the top-ranked tennis player under the age of 18 in Peru.
“She is a very accomplished player,” Mauro said. “I saw that she did a great job there and she’s just a great girl. We’re happy that she’s here.”
Mauro said adjusting to student-athlete life abroad takes its toll on all of his international players. Bedon, like most players in Peru, was used to playing on clay courts instead of Temple’s hardcourts.
Mauro said she struggled when she first began playing for Temple because she had to deal with these changes at just 16 years old. But he said her growth as a player was remarkable.
“When she first got here she was very young and it took her a while to acclimate to speaking English, going to school, the practice style and all that,” Mauro said. “But she continued to work and every year her game got better and better.”
Bedon said fellow seniors Anais Nussaume and Dina Karina were both very supportive from the beginning of their time at Temple in Fall 2013. She said the upperclassmen on the team also helped.
Mauro said Alicia Doms, a senior captain when Bedon was a freshman in the 2013-14 season, took Bedon “under her wing” and helped her get used to college tennis and life.
“She’s been lucky that she’s been around some nice girls that helped her with the transition,” Mauro said. “It’s nice to see one helping another out.”
Bedon said there were some parts of American culture that she enjoyed experiencing for the first time.
Bedon said she was “shocked” by the difference in food between Peru and the U.S. She was particularly surprised by all the varieties of pizza available here. Her new favorite, she said, is barbecue chicken.
Bedon is one of the most lively players on the team. It is a quality Mauro noticed when the two spoke on the phone during the recruiting process.
Junior Monet Stuckey-Willis is one of Bedon’s closest friends on the team and her current doubles partner. Stuckey-Willis said that she and Bedon clicked immediately and their chemistry has allowed them to succeed as a new duo. The two are 2-1 in their first three matches as a doubles team with a victory against American Athletic Conference rival Cincinnati.
“She’s the same off the court as she is on the court,” Stuckey-Willis said. “She’s energetic, nice, outgoing, a lot of fun.”
On the court, Bedon has become a consistent winner for the Owls. This season, she has a 12-5 overall singles record and a 7-3 record in the sixth flight. Her narrow 6-4, 7-6 (7) victory in the sixth position was the deciding score in Temple’s 4-3 win against Drexel University on March 1.
Bedon, an economics major minoring in finance, is set to graduate in Fall 2017. She plans to return to Peru this summer for an internship at a bank. After graduation, she hopes to stay in the Philadelphia area.
She does not want to be far from the team this fall, even though she will be ineligible to play. Bedon said she will bring her vibrant personality to the team’s fall practices and tournaments to cheer on her former teammates before she graduates.
“I’m sure we will see her here,” Mauro said. “We are probably going to make her a volunteer coach or something like that because I like her work ethic. And I know she’ll be successful in her career after Temple.”
Graham Foley can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @graham_foley3.