Mell Reasco, ranked No. 63 in singles, is a sophomore on the UGA women’s tennis team from Quito, Ecuador. She plays the No. 3 singles position and has formed a powerful doubles team (ranked No. 61) with Meg Kowalski. Reasco clinched the third point of the championship match in the SEC tournament for the Bulldogs, who won the title over Texas A&M. The third-ranked Bulldogs will host the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament this Friday and Saturday.

(This interview has been edited for clarity.)

Q: With your quick 6-4, 6-3 victory over Texas A&M and you winning that third point for your team, what emotions were you feeling, what was going through your head after that?

A: Yeah, I guess the whole week, like at the beginning I was really nervous. And I was not playing my greatest, but I knew that Texas A&M is our biggest rivalry and we lost to them in season very close. So I just knew that I had to do it and be 100% focused and do my best. So since the beginning, even in doubles, we didn’t do that good. I knew that in singles, I can do it, I can beat this girl. So I was so focused and having Meg next to me was also really good, because I knew she was supporting me and believing in me. So I was just doing my job I guess.

Q: How do you think your regular-season, third-set tiebreak loss to Texas A&M’s Mia Kupres helped you come out on top during the tournament?

A: I was really down when I lost, but I knew I was very close and we played them at Texas A&M, so they have fans and all this. The whole situation helped them a lot. But I knew I just have to keep working and do fitness and stuff. I feel like we needed to be more together. I just guess we’d do that.

Q: You’ve won three matches in a row heading into NCAAs. How do you feel about how you’ve been playing?

A: Well, I’ve been struggling, but I feel like I have the confidence, and these two weeks that we have before NCAAs [we] just got to put to work. And I know that if we all put [in] the work, we’re gonna do great in NCAAs.

Q: With NCAAs coming up, how do you think hosting the first and second rounds will impact your team’s performance?

A: It’s really nice that we’re playing here because last year, we hosted the first two rounds, but then we had to go on the road. And just playing with the fans here, it impacts us. But then the other teams also feel like they’re not in their comfort zone. So we worked all this year so hard to be seeded and have this opportunity to play here at home, so it’s really nice.

Q: You and Meg have become a solid doubles pairing and you have done well this season. So how have you both created that chemistry to be successful?

A: I feel like Meg, she’s a fifth year, so she has a lot of experience and knowledge. I feel like she has a lot to tell me. And I’m just learning about her and I know that she would do everything for our team. So like, that helped me a lot on the court. She takes a lot of pressure out of me. And just, she always tells me to enjoy and just ‘do it for Georgia,’ and we know that we can do it.

Q: Besides ‘doing it for Georgia,’ has she given you any advice that you’ve taken?

A: Yeah, I feel like she always tells me to be more involved in other things that’s not tennis, because she does a lot of things for Georgia, not only tennis, and now I feel like I’m trying to be more involved. Like trying to be with other teams also, trying to be in the Georgia Way and work and know things that I like outside of the sport.

Q: What has been your favorite memory this season and why?

A: Oh, I think, my favorite memory is, actually SECs of course, but before that I think indoors was so nice, because before indoors, we were not doing great. And I think everyone was, we didn’t know what to expect in indoors. So just going there [and] playing so hard and fighting for each other and we did finals there. It was just really good for the whole team because we got confidence back and we know that we can do it and we can fight for NCAAs.

Q: Why did you choose to come to UGA from Ecuador to play tennis?

A: Well, at first I didn’t want to come to college, but then my parents wanted me to get a degree. And I knew I’ll have possibilities to have full scholarships in different universities. And one of my idols from South America, Lourdes (Carle), she came here for one year. And now she’s playing professional tournaments. I wanted just to follow her, and I decided to go to UGA, but I had other options, but that was why I chose UGA, mostly.

Q: How has playing for a collegiate team like Georgia differed from growing up and playing for yourself?

A: Well now it’s really different because you’re playing more than yourself. And your teammates are, they’re like your sisters. So it’s like, everything that you do is bigger and, I don’t know, it’s like a family. So it’s like you’re just doing it for your family, it’s better, but because before, I will travel alone, and now just traveling with someone and having so much support, it’s really nice.

Q: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned this season?

A: The biggest lesson is to know each other, I guess, to know more about my teammates outside of the tennis court and just always play as a team and not an individual.

Q: With two seasons left, do you have any personal goals for your collegiate tennis?

A: Yes, I want to be an All-American again and try to play in the NCAA finals.

Kaya Ilustrisimo is a student in the Sports Media Certificate program at the University of Georgia’s Carmical Sports Media Institute.