The swinging of the racquets on a crisp afternoon. Training in the weight room after a long day of classes. Improving on skills and techniques to apply during matches. All of these things are ingredients that will lead to a successful tennis season.
After a highly successful 2018 season on and off the court, Judit Castillo Gargallo begins her third spring season with the Northwestern State Lady Demons tennis team, whose home opener is Saturday at the Jack Fisher Tennis Complex. NSU will host UL Lafayette on Saturday at 10 a.m., Jackson State University at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, and LSU Alexandria at 2 Sunday afternoon.
She was 9-2 in conference play, an All-Southland Conference Second-Team Singles
selection, on the Southland Conference Commissioner’s Spring Honor Roll and on the Southland Conference Women’s Tennis All-Academic Second Team. The Lady Demons placed second in the Southland Conference tournament.
Although she thrives on the tennis court, her athletic beginnings were not with tennis. She played soccer and ran for track and field and cross country before picking up a racquet at the age of 12. Her dad started playing tennis with her, but there was nowhere to play in her hometown, Teruel, Spain. The closest city to practice in was an hour and a half away in Valencia, so her dad drove her there to practice for three years.
Once she turned fifteen, her family thought it would be a good idea for her to move in with her sister who was studying in college in Valencia.
“When I moved to Valencia, I left people and experiences back in Teruel,” Castillo Gargalo said. “However, I knew that the best was yet to come. I met wonderful people in Valencia, I fell in love with the city and I was able to do what I liked the most, playing tennis, almost every day.”
During her second year living in Valencia, she was thinking of applying to the University in Valencia and working as a tennis coach. Unfortunately, there is no opportunity for students to play sports at the collegiate level and study simultaneously in Spain, and she knew that would be the end of her tennis career. Coming to the United States would give her the opportunity to continue doing what she loves while furthering her education, and she loves it.
Multiple colleges showed interest in her such as Montana State, Miami University in Ohio, and University of Louisiana at Monroe, but it was Northwestern State University that won her over.
“After I talked to the head tennis coach for the first time I just felt that there was something special on the atmosphere at NSU,” Castillo Gargalo said. “It seemed to be a place where people were kind, passionate, attentive, generous, supportive, and had lots of positivity.”
After coming so close to a conference title last season, she believes that they have a real chance to win the title this season. She said that the tournament is not won the day of the game but in each practice. As long as the team continues to work hard, push each other in every practice, and support and care for each other, they will do great this season.
“Since I started playing tennis, my life turned 180 degrees around. Everything was happening very fast, and everything was because of tennis,” Castillo Gargalo said. “Tennis has given me people, experiences, places, education, respect, adversity and overcoming, languages and personality. Throughout tennis, I have discovered a whole new world, and I just realized that is not tennis what is part of my life. It is that I have this life, in huge part, because of tennis.”