Rebecca Ho humble as ever with history on the horizon
Many successful athletes follow strict dietary regimens consisting of rigid food choices, meticulous checking of nutrition facts and careful timing of meals.
Rebecca Ho is not one of them.
Instead of rigorously maintained carbohydrate counts or religiously monitored protein input, Ho, a junior on the Washington University women’s tennis team, has a very different method of preparation: junk food.
“I’m…kind of known on the team for not being a very good eater, and I have a really weak stomach, too, so I will eat chocolate smoothies, crepes, desserts before my matches and a lot of times actually in matches. I’ve gotten sick, but I refuse to retire!” Ho said with a laugh.
Ho wants to improve her eating habits this year, but who could blame her if she sticks with what works? She earned a staggering 50 wins between singles and doubles during the 2014-2015 tennis season.
“I’m trying to eat healthier this year, but it’s been a thing with me,” Ho said. “Like I’ll drink soda—you’re not supposed to drink soda before your matches—I’ll drink soda. I’ll eat hamburgers before my matches. I’ll just do the wrong thing. But I don’t know—last year I did it all the time, and even when I got sick, I think I played pretty well.”
Ho is not the most conventional tennis player. In addition to her unique eating habits, she also didn’t play doubles consistently till her freshman year at Wash. U. When she finally began working with a partner, she patrolled the baseline. The aggressive player that she was, Ho started striking her net opponent with the tennis ball.
“The way I played doubles was basically from the baseline—just trying to hit it hard, really hard,” Ho said. “So a lot of times, I would intentionally-unintentionally go for the person at the net, and I would hit them a lot…It kind of became a thing, and then, when I was a sophomore, I was like, ‘You know, maybe I should cut it down a bit.’”
Ho has since refrained from pelting her opponents with tennis balls, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t considered reviving the strategy.
“I’m thinking maybe I should go back to what I did as a freshman, because it really worked really well,” Ho joked.
Ho is a member of a Bears’ squad that is currently ranked No. 13 in the country by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), but on her own she finished the 2015 season ranked No. 4 nationally in singles. She also has an ability to gel with any partner. Ho qualified for the NCAA individual tournament in doubles her first two seasons, each time with a different partner. Now in her junior season, she has a new partner, senior Aly Coran. The pair has already qualified for small college nationals and is currently ranked No. 10 in the ITA preseason poll.
Ho has been at the top of the scholastic tennis scene for a long time. However, humility may be her strongest trait. After a sterling run at Golden Valley High School in Santa Clarita, Calif., where she compiled a 160-13 record, Ho made no assumptions about how far her talent could take her.
“I definitely knew I wanted to play somewhere; I just didn’t know what level, what division,” Ho said.
When she arrived on the Wash. U. campus, Ho’s ascent continued through her freshman season, during which she racked up 40 wins, but still she remained unwavering in her refusal to take anything for granted.
“I just wanted to contribute in whatever way I could,” Ho said. “I feel, especially coming in a freshman, you have to work your way into the lineup, so I just came in with the mindset that I was going to do what I needed to do to just kind of play without expectations and see what happened.”
What happened was this: Ho, still just a junior, has already made history, with the potential for far more. As a sophomore, she became just the second Wash. U. woman to qualify for the NCAA Division III Individual Championships in both singles and doubles in the same season. The only other Bear to do it was Debbie Michelson, who accomplished the feat twice, in 1990 and 1992. Michelson is also the only Bear to have qualified even three times, which Ho can match with another qualification this season. The parallels between Ho and Michelson are myriad; last season, Ho reached No. 4 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association singles rankings, the highest such ranking by a Wash. U. woman since Michelson’s No. 3 ranking in 1992.
Perhaps most impressive, however, is Ho’s under the radar pursuit of the Wash. U. women’s tennis victory record. She averaged 45 victories over her first two seasons, putting her on pace to challenge Michelson’s career mark of 183, set in 1992. In fact, with 101 wins to date and two months of her junior year still remaining, Ho could gain sole possession of fourth place on the all-time list by season’s end, and sit within striking distance of Michelson entering her senior season.
Don’t expect Ho to get caught up in the hype, though.
“I just want to constantly improve…I think I just go into every match, even now, just thinking that I want to go play my best,” Ho said. “I think my biggest challenge is just having to always tell myself that it’s not about winning or losing—don’t think about anything else on the court except just trying to play your best.”
With so much history on the horizon, it would certainly be understandable to get excited about what the future might hold for Ho. Just remember that Ho would be the first to tell you to sit back, grab a soda and see what happens.