Rising to the occasion: Captain Juliana Nelkin

Born in Recife, Brazil, raised in New York, and currently living in Santa Monica, life has taken Juliana Nelkin from one place to another.

But there is one constant that follows her wherever she goes: tennis.

She picked up the racket at age 5 after seeing her parents, who she said are her two biggest inspirations, playing recreational tennis.

"I have loved it ever since," said Nelkin.

It was at the age of 11 when tennis started to become serious for Nelkin. She played her first tournament in New York, and at age 14, she participated in her first national tournament.

Her most memorable match was in an International Tennis Federation tournament six years ago in Texas.

Nelkin played in a round of 16 and lost the first set 2-6, but came back and won the last two sets, 6-2 and 6-2.

She moved to Santa Monica a year and a half ago to be closer to her cousins, and Santa Monica College was the best-suited school for her.

"I get to play against good players, and I've definitely improved my tennis here," said Nelkin.

In the beginning of this season, SMC coach Richard Goldenson appointed Nelkin as the team captain of the top-ranked Lady Corsairs.

This season has been Nelkin's first as captain, and she said she enjoys her new role.

"It is fun; I try to get everyone together for practice and matches," she said.

For her new role, Nelkin learned a lot from former SMC captain, Chriss Rodriguez.

"She was always there for the team and made sure we all stuck together," said Nelkin.

Her leadership has inspired teammates and helped form a strong sense of camaraderie.

"She's a great teammate and always a stable player," said fellow SMC tennis player Elin Hedberg. "She can have a temperament on the court, but she's always professional toward her opponents."

Tennis has been a huge part of Nelkin's life outside of SMC as well. Her father signs her up for tournaments on weekends and they take a tennis vacation every year.

"When we're in offseason, I try to play at least three times a week on my own," she said.

She said she considers her forehand and volleys the strongest aspects of her play.

"I had a coach who told me that I would never have a good backhand, and that stuck with me," said Nelkin. "I was scared of using it, but discovered this year that it's actually pretty good."

Nelkin is currently in her sophomore year, her final year of eligibility.

"I want to play for a four-year, and in the future hopefully become a coach," said Nelkin.

The Lady Corsairs are currently in preparation for the upcoming playoffs, for which they have big expectations.

"We have a really good group of players," Nelkin said. "We know how to come together and win as a team when it's most important. Hopefully we can go all the way. Time will tell."