Candice Maswela played tennis for three years while growing up in Zimbabwe but stopped after her family moved to central Ohio in 2010.
Despite a three-year hiatus from the sport, the sophomore decided to try out for the Canal Winchester High School girls tennis team this season. She not only made the team, but has been a key contributor, earning playing time at third singles, where she won four of her first five matches.
"I'm really surprised I made third singles because I forgot everything I had known about playing tennis and I basically had to start all over again," Maswela said. "I've just been working hard to improve. Before this season, I practiced running with my dad, and I took some lessons from (Pickerington Central coaches) Kelli and Brittany Rings. I've also learned a lot from my coaches at Canal Winchester."
Indians coach Jason Moisey said Maswela's mental toughness and speed give her an advantage over the majority of her opponents.
"The way that Candice approaches the game is different than most players who were born here because tennis is a bigger deal in Zimbabwe, so she has a greater appreciation for the sport than a lot of American(-born) players," he said. "Candice has a great attitude and she plays with a lot of heart. She's also really quick and athletic and she hustles for every ball."
Moisey said Maswela is an intelligent player who can absorb and execute new strategies fairly quickly. He pointed to her performance in a match against Hamilton Township on Aug. 21 as an example. She played his stepdaughter, Khloee Rowe, at third singles, losing the first set 6-4 before winning the final two 6-4 and 6-1 to help the Indians beat the Rangers 4-1.
"Khloee is a very good player and she beat Candice in the first set, so I helped Candice adjust her strategy because I obviously know Khloee's game really well," Moisey said. "Candice adjusted her game pretty quickly and she picked up a big win at third singles for us.
"Khloee came off the court crying, but I took her out to dinner afterward and made sure she felt better."
Indians assistant coach Mitsi Niceswanger is impressed with Maswela's selfless attitude, including her willingness to play first and second doubles when called upon, even though she has very little experience playing with a partner.
"Candice is the kind of kid that make coaches love their job," Niceswanger said. "She is hard-working, self-motivated, a team cheerleader and is willing to play anyone, anytime, anywhere. She gets along well with every girl on the team. She has impeccable calls and superior sportsmanship.
"She has the most potential of any player on our team and probably that I've ever coached."
Maswela said being part of the tennis team has helped her become more social and make new friends. She experienced a culture shock when she first moved to the United States, but has adjusted to her new lifestyle and now appreciates both countries.
Fortunately for Maswela, she attended a private school in Zimbabwe's capital city of Harare and was fluent in English when she arrived in the United States. The primary language in Zimbabwe is Shona.
"When we first came here, I had to learn how to act differently and meet new people because the culture is so different and people look at a lot of things a lot differently here," Maswela said. "The food tasted weird to me and I noticed not many kids play outside the way they do in Zimbabwe. There are a lot of things I still miss about Zimbabwe. I miss my old friends and I miss the slower pace of life.
"But there's a lot of things I really like here, too. My favorite thing is probably the schools because they are easier to learn in. It's been fun to meet new people and learn new things. I really appreciate the opportunities for a better life that we have here, that some people take for granted."
Maswela plans to continue playing tennis for the remainder of her prep career.
"I haven't set any big goals for myself yet," she said. "I'd just really love to keep winning matches for my team, and it would be great if I can move up to play first singles someday."
The Indians were 5-9 overall before playing Teays Valley on Sept. 24. Canal Winchester finished 2-5 in the OCC-Cardinal.
Football team still looking for first win
The football team continues to search for its first win.
Canal Winchester fell to 0-4 overall with a 50-7 loss to visiting Westerville South in its OCC-Cardinal opener Sept. 20. It travels to Westerville Central for another league game Friday, Sept. 27.
The Indians continue to struggle on offense, finishing with only 48 total yards. They had only 8 yards rushing on 30 carries and quarterbacks Nick Hammond and William Totten combined to complete four of 15 passes for 40 yards.
Running back Mike Dean led the Indians with 52 yards on six carries.
South, which improved to 3-1, had 345 total yards, passing for 174 and rushing for 171. The Wildcats led 26-0 at halftime and extended their lead to 43-0 by the end of the third quarter. The Indians' lone score came on a 23-yard pass from Hammond to wide receiver Skyler Scott with 5 seconds left.
Defensive back Khari Golden had an interception for the Indians.
Central rallied from a 13-point, third-quarter deficit to defeat Dublin Scioto 41-38 in its league opener Sept. 20 to improve to 3-1.
Quarterback Jared Drake had a touchdown pass and scored on runs of 20 and 56 yards, running back Benny Snell scored on a 1-yard run and wide receiver Eldin Anu scored on a 90-yard kickoff return to lead the Warhawks.
Boys golfers get set for sectional
The boys golf team will compete in a 13-team Division I sectional tournament Tuesday, Oct. 1, at Darby Creek.
The top three teams and top three individuals not on a qualifying team advance to district Oct. 8 at Apple Valley.
The Indians finished last (0-28) in the four-round OCC-Cardinal Division tournament, behind Dublin Jerome (27-1), Westerville Central (25-3), Westerville South (18-10), Dublin Scioto (14-14), Hilliard Bradley (10-18) and Hilliard Darby and Westerville North (9-19).
Mason Lance had a team-best 101.5-stroke average in league play, followed by Joseph Bernowski (104.5), Cody Cowgill (123.5), Matt Snyder (124.5) and Drew Miller (129.7).