After a failed attempt at karate and a short career as a flamenco dancer, Sofia Ayuso '21 discovered the sport to which she would dedicate herself — tennis. Ayuso tried the sport because her older sister was playing — a story that most older siblings can relate to. She was just 6 when she first picked up a racket, and she has only grown to love tennis more since then.

Besides being a passionate player, she is also a skilled one. Before coming to Bucknell, Ayuso was the second-ranked junior tennis player in her home country of Venezuela. Since Venezuelan schools do not typically have tennis teams, Ayuso was an army of one. After a year of playing at Bucknell, she has shifted from being self-focused to team-oriented. This new mentality is reflected in the fact that she is no longer aware of her personal ranking. Her focus is on her teammates.

On playing for Bucknell, Ayuso says, "I love it. The team is great, and the energy is amazing. The older girls are always willing to help you. They've been through what we [first-year students] are going through, so they're honestly like big sisters." Ayuso and her teammates played an exciting spring season, closing with 14 wins and 8 losses.

Demanding as it is, Ayuso has managed to strike a balance between her time on the court and in the library. The computer science major relies on athlete study groups, peer mentors and, of course, her Google calendar to keep herself organized and in solid academic standing.

"I feel like it was key to my adjustment to another type of educational system — coming to a small school, where everyone's available and willing to help, and there are resources," Ayuso says.

A great Bucknell resource for Ayuso has been grant money provided to students like her who are conducting research during the summer. Working alongside Professor Evan Peck, computer science, Ayuso used a psychology-based approach to study the effect of a person's socioeconomic, educational and political backgrounds on their perception of visual data in the form of graphs and charts. The project began in summer 2017 when Omar El-Etr '19 collected the data that Ayuso analyzed this summer.

Though graduation is hardly on Ayuso's mind yet, her future in tennis is. When asked if she will continue with the sport after her tenure with the Bucknell team, she replies, "That's a question that I ask myself a lot, 'What am I going to do?' But what I'm 100 percent sure of is that I'm going to keep playing, even if it's just socially. I have to keep playing. I feel like it's part of me, which sounds cheesy, but it's true."