“It was kind of a ‘crazy’ and ‘impulsive’ decision, my friends and family say, but I will never regret making it.”
Ignacio Poncio, a sophomore known affectionately across campus as Nacho, recalls the decision he made right at the deadline to leave his home country of Argentina to study abroad in the states.
One of his former coaches had become an agent since Poncio’s youth, and he helped the tennis player connect with several universities, including HU.
Poncio connected quickly with his team, which jumped right into preseason workouts upon his arrival. The team his freshman season consisted of just seven players. Five of Poncho’s teammates were fellow international students, who experienced a lot of the same adjustments he initially faced.
“It has been very helpful for this journey that I started here at HU,” he said. “All my closest friends are international, and since we are away from home, we become our own family. On birthdays or other important dates, when we miss home the most, my international friends are the ones that are there as a family.”
The sport that guided Poncio across an ocean wasn’t always his favorite, however. As a child, he favored Argentina’s most popular sport—football. Poncio said as soon as he picked up a racket at age 11, “the spot of my favorite sport was shared by the two.”
Poncio said his favorite part of tennis is competing at what he’s passionate about.
“Every time I am in the court, I forget about everything,” he said. “My only thought is how to win that match. Even if I am struggling with something, or whatever might be going on in my life, once I get in the court, it goes away.”
Poncio’s competitive nature makes losses tough to swallow at times. He said his faith gets him through it.
“I think that faith plays the role of calming me down,” Poncio said. “It helps put everything in perspective. I suffer a lot when I lose, and my faith is what helps me stay on my feet with my head high, knowing that I am much more than just a tennis player—I am a son of God.”
His family has also acted as major support throughout his athletic career, traveling with him around the country to play in tournaments that sometimes lasted an entire week.
When Poncio joined the Forester roster, he made an immediate impact on the team and within the Crossroads League. He cruised his way to a 12-3 season record at the No. 2 singles spot as a rookie. He also spent most of his doubles play at the No. 1 spot, tallying a 9-4 record. Poncio’s play that year earned him all-conference honors, a feat he repeated again this season.
Guiding the Foresters at each of the No. 1 slots this season, he finished 6-2 against Crossroads League foes in singles action. Poncio teamed up with one of his closest friends, Mariano Echevarria, in the second half of the 2016 season to compete in doubles.
“Mariano is like a brother to me,” he said. “I met him one year ago, but after all the things that we went through as teammates, friends, doubles partners and even roommates, it makes me feel like I have known him much longer.”
The squad nearly doubled in size from Poncio’s first to second seasons, but he said this didn’t alter the chemistry.
“We remain very close—doing activities off the court and being there for one another when needed,” he said. “This, in my opinion, made the difference during the season in comparison with other teams in the conference. We are a team of friends on and off the court.”
Poncio said, as far as his technical game goes, he’s bettered his forehand since coming to HU. As Poncio approaches his second offseason, he’s beginning to cultivate a list of areas he’d like to focus on to be even stronger next season.
“I want to work on my fitness,” he said. “I struggled with some injuries through the season, so I will try to focus on this to avoid them next season.”