Feb. 11, 2013
MADISON, Wis. – When she was named captain of the Wisconsin women’s tennis team last summer, Hannah Berner knew that she would have her hands full. Not only would she be asked to assume the captain’s role, but she would have to provide leadership to one of the youngest UW teams in recent memory.
“Losing girls who I had been with for three years and gaining six new freshmen was definitely a new experience for me,” Berner said.
But where others might have seen a daunting challenge, Berner saw an intriguing opportunity.
“I saw this as my chance to create an entirely new team dynamic, start new traditions and have a completely different experience than other years,” Berner said. “I wanted to immediately establish a certain work ethic, competitive edge and sense of team camaraderie to set the tone for the entire season.”
Berner’s initiative was much-appreciated by head coach Brian Fleishman, who spoke glowingly about her impact on the team.
“Hannah is a phenomenal teammate and leader,” Fleishman said. “She really has helped so much with our young team.”
Fleishman wasn’t the only person to notice Berner’s efforts, as many of her teammates rave about how important she has been to them as they settle into life as UW student-athletes.
“From the day I stepped on campus in August and every day since, Hannah has been a great role model for me,” said freshman teammate and doubles partner Lauren Chypyha. “She’s like a big sister to us, and has been there for us every step of the way. We will always remember the impact she has had on us.”
Not only has Berner had an impact on her teammates, but on the larger community as well. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Berner, a Brooklyn, N.Y. native, organized a ‘Serving for Sandy’ fundraiser, joining the rest of the women’s tennis team to raise over $600 for victims of the superstorm.
As successful as her season has been off the court, Berner’s work on the court has been pretty good too. The senior sets the tone for the Badgers from her spot at No.1 singles and doubles, and her four combined singles and doubles wins for the spring season are tied with Chypyha for the most on the team.
The wins have been nice, but Berner’s demeanor on the court has been even better. The winner of the team’s “Grinder” Award in 2010, Berner’s all-out effort in every match is a welcome sight for UW coaches. It’s a trait that Berner says she learned from former captains, and hopes to pass on to her younger teammates.
“I have been very close with past captains, like Liz Carpenter, Jessica Seyferth and Jojo Gruber,” said Berner. “I definitely learned to lead by example, and how important the little things can be—from high-fiving in the locker room to fighting your heart out on gameday.”
That fighting spirit was evident in Wisconsin’s first victory of the season, a 4-3 comeback win over Boston University on Feb. 2. After trailing 3-2, Katie Hoch’s win knotted up the score at 3-3. With the No. 1 singles match the only match left, UW’s fate rested with Berner. Her match against BU’s Lauren Davis went three sets before Berner finally grinded out a hard-fought win, 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-6(3) to give the Badgers the match.
“It was fitting for Hannah to be the one who finished the win off for us,” said Wisconsin assistant coach Mira Radu. “That was one of the wins that she’s going to remember for a long time.”
While an injury robbed Berner of an opportunity for an encore performance in UW’s home-opener against Utah, it didn’t stop her from attending the match, cheering on and coaching up her teammates.
Always a leader, on the court and off.