TAMPA, Fla. – There resides in Massachusetts a 21-year-old Finnish junior at Boston College that speaks four languages – English being her fourth – played for the national team of her country at 12, has twice won the school’s Athletics Director’s Award for Academic Achievement, and was named to the ACC Academic Honour Roll in each year she has been enrolled.
Oh, and she plays some tennis, too.
Ina Kauppila is a native of Espoo, Finland, and is in her third year playing for the Eagles.
Yet just like a typical Finn, she humbly credits hard work and perseverance for her successful college career.
“It has been a challenge,” said Kauppila after joining fellow Eagle Katarina Gajic in a 8-0 dominant shutout in doubles play against Southern Florida. “I have to say that it has been a pretty rocky road but I am the kind of person that works hard no matter what I do and I give my best every time I start something. I think my mentality and my positive attitude has taken me through it.”
Ina’s overall record of 28-47 (23-25 in singles, and 5-22 in doubles) in NCAA competition does not speak to the strong all-around ability she possesses. Instead, it demonstrates the far greater quality and quantity of competition in the United States than she ever had to face back home.
Boston College women’s tennis head coach Nigel Bentley is a glowing supporter of Kauppila despite her struggles.
“She has an all-court type of game,” he said during a phone conversation. “She can make all the shots, and she possesses a well-rounded, highly intelligent game for both singles and doubles.
“The biggest thing for Ina is just to overcome some anxiety, and nerves, and conquer those mental challenges.”
Like most young tennis players recruited to play varsity, Ina had to transition from being a team on her own in juniors, to being a part of a unit at BC.
It’s a fact that she had to come to terms with, but now relishes.
“I think the biggest difference [between when I played in Finland and now] is being part of a team,” Kauppila said. “The support coming from others really helps and everyone pushes each other so that makes you want to develop and get better all the time.
“It also makes it more competitive. You want to be in the lineup since you work your butt off every day on and off the court so that has pushed me a lot.”
Kauppila was offered a scholarship to Boston College after being considered the best player in Finland in the under-12, 14, 16, and 18 divisions each time she was eligible for the respective categories. She won the Finnish Masters Tournament in the girls’ under-15 level, and has represented her country at various tournaments around Europe.
To Ina, the purpose of it all is to provide inspiration to young Finns wanting to broaden their academic and athletic horizons.
“I am hoping [young people back home] see me as an example,” Kauppila said. “I hope that they see that they can do it as well, that more kids will come here and either play a sport or even just study outside of Finland. I think now today’s world is so global. So it’s good for them to expand and get out of their comfort zone, struggle a bit.”
Thus far this season she is 4-1 in singles and 4-5 in doubles, and has struggled to find herself on the regular singles list – something she wants desperately.
But the smiling Finnish tennis junkie refuses to be discouraged.
“I’m loving life and enjoying this to the fullest,” she said. “I’m hoping time didn’t go by that fast because it’s flying. Hopefully it can slow down a little bit.”