Written by: Kate Reilly
Junior women's tennis player, Vinaya Rao, is passionate about developing her athletic and academic skills alongside ambitious peers. Last year, Vinaya competed in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) National Doubles Championship with doubles partner, Melissa Strome, where the pair earned All-American status placing fifth overall. Vinaya is also an All-UAA Second Team selection at No. 2 singles and a two-time No. 2 doubles selection.
At the regional competition, Vinaya and Melissa competed in an all-CMU final against the Tartan doubles team of Courtney Ollis and Cori Sidell. "It was a very tight match down to the last few points and I was sharing that experience with not only my doubles partner but two of my other very close teammates," said Vinaya of the experience, "It was incredibly rewarding to know that our hard work paid off overall and I loved the feeling."
While dominating the tournament, Vinaya and the Tartans prospered among top-caliber competition. "My favorite thing about competing at the national doubles championships was the amazing environment," added Vinaya. "Seeing so many men and women both competing at the highest level was so fun and reminded me so much of why I love this sport and all the hard work that everyone puts into it."
Vinaya first began playing tennis with her parents at a local park in her hometown in Illinois. Tennis was initially just for fun but soon developed into a lifelong passion spurred on by her first coach. "After admitting me into the nearest tennis club, my tennis coach further improved my experience and I was able to get so much out of the sport both on the court and off. I am still in contact with my tennis coach. I think of him as family, I would not be the person nor player I am today without him."
When deciding to move onto the next level, collegiate tennis, Carnegie Mellon was a clear choice for Vinaya. The junior remembers the factor that stood out most to be the strength of the school from both an academic standpoint and an athletic one. Since coming to Carnegie Mellon, Vinaya said that she has realized, "The pride each student has in everything they do sets the school apart from many others and that was the main driving force behind my decision to come here. It is inspiring to see your peers getting involved in so many activities and loving every moment of it."
As an economics major Vinaya is motivated by the potential for many different real-world applications of knowledge within economics. Vinaya's favorite class thus far at CMU has been Economics and Data Science, a core class within her major. Outside of tennis and academics, Vinaya is also involved in the sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta which she says, "has given her the opportunity to have a large network and get involved in the surrounding community."
Vinaya is also an ambassador at the Coulter Welcome center where she represents the greater campus community. Her position there allows her to demonstrate her passion as a Tartan. "While this school can be intimidating, it is also such an amazing opportunity to diversify your
skills and meet a great network of people through your sport and classes!" Vinaya is a testament to the mission of hard work and competition as a Carnegie Mellon University student-athlete. After missing the regional tournament this fall due to injury, she will again be representing the Tartans on the courts during the spring semester.