Galina Chernykh may seem like an outsider to the Philadelphia community.
Chernykh grew up in Russia, went to the University of Rhode Island for four years to play tennis and then transferred to Temple for graduate school.
But like many Philadelphians, Chernykh knows what is great about this city.
“Pretzels,” Chernykh said with a smile when asked about her favorite aspect of Philadelphia. “No, I’m joking. It’s a nice city. I like it a lot.”
Chernykh said she wanted to come to a bigger school with a tougher conference when she was looking for a school to transfer to for her final year of eligibility. Temple was a perfect fit.
The University of Rhode Island is 30 miles away from Providence, the state capital and closest big city. Temple was a drastic change.
“It has some pluses and minuses because URI was one big community, where everyone was living together in dorms and it was more safe, but [Temple] has pluses too because you’re in the middle of the city, you can do whatever you want, you can go wherever you want,” Chernykh said.
Chernykh is originally from the providence of Siberia, Russia. She said that the primary difference between Siberia and Philadelphia is the climate, but that’s not the main reason she made the decision to come to America. Chernykh said Russia doesn’t offer the opportunity to study and compete simultaneously, like she could in the United States.
Chernykh isn’t alone in her experiences. Seven of her eight teammates are from a foreign country.
“It’s definitely a different culture, different way of sports, it’s just different,” Chernykh said. “But we have a lot of different international kids on the team so you don’t really feel like you’re alone, because everyone is away from family. It makes it easier.”
At Rhode Island, Chernykh posted a 38-13 singles record in her first two seasons with a 26-9 record as the team’s top seed. After her sophomore season, Chernykh was named to the 12-member All-Atlantic 10 Conference team, the only member from Rhode Island.
Chernykh went 2-0 in doubles matches with senior Dina Karina in fall tournaments. She also won a doubles match with junior Alina Abdurakhimova at the Princeton Invitational in September and won another doubles match with junior Yana Khon in the Round of 16 at the Cissie Leary Invitational.
Chernykh had a 2-2 record in fall singles matches. In the Owls’ first match of the spring, a 6-1 loss to Old Dominion University, Chernykh was the Owls’ No. 1 singles player.
Accepting the transfer of a player like Chernykh is a bit of a risk. There are few roster spots on a tennis team, and Chernykh can only play this year.
Coach Steve Mauro said he brought her on the team because of her talent and competitiveness.
“It’s just for one year, so you don’t really know, but we did a lot of research on her,” Mauro said. “We talked to both of her coaches, I’m actually friends with one of her former coaches, and we just wanted to make sure that she was the right person for our team and so far we’ve been very happy with her.”
“She had great results in Rhode Island, she was one of the top players in the Atlantic 10,” Mauro added. “We did a lot of research and we felt that her style of play would really help our team. And she’s a very tenacious player so I figured her style would really help push the girls as well.”
Chernykh’s season got off to a slow start when she injured her foot in practice leading up to the team’s match against Old Dominion. She played through the injury and suffered a 6-1, 6-0 loss, but Mauro said her result could have been different if she were healthy.
Mauro said Chernykh’s injury is “just a sprain,” and she should be ready to play in the team’s next match on Friday against Iowa State University.
“She’s a real fighter on the court,” Maruo said. “No matter who she’s playing she’s always going to fight and doesn’t want to lose. Her personality is just to win, win, win. … Unfortunately she’s had a couple of injuries, but I think in a few weeks she’ll be one of the top players on our team.”
Graham Foley can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @graham_foley3.