Senior Stephanie Wagner remembers the court where it happened. It was the fall of her freshman season in 2012 and she slammed her racket to the ground in frustration, just as she had done before in tournaments across Europe. This time it was in front of Miami women’s tennis Head Coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews, and the program’s all-time winningest coach wasn’t about to let a quick temper derail the career of her newest top international recruit.
“My freshman fall … I threw my racket in front of Paige. I screamed bad words in German,” Wagner, a native of Amberg, Germany, said on Tuesday. “Then Coach called me and was like, ‘Steph, you have to stop doing that. You can’t be having such bad temper tantrums on the court.’ Now, if I’m mad, I scream once and then get myself together. It doesn’t hold me back anymore.”
Wagner is the unquestioned leader of the women’s tennis team in her fourth and final season. She is also the No. 6-ranked player in the country, Co-UM Female Athlete of the Year for 2014-15 and the eighth player in program history to reach 100 wins. Coach Yaroshuk-Tews knew right away she was a special competitor.
“Once we met her, we knew we wanted to have her on our team,” Coach Yaroshuk-Tews said. “She’s a tiger between the lines, but off the court, she’s the sweetest kid you’ll meet.”
The five-foot-11 senior became the seventh player in program history to reach the NCAA Singles Championship semifinals last season and has been selected First Team All-ACC the last two years.
The success isn’t really a surprise for Wagner. She’s always been assured in her abilities on the tennis court, dating back to her childhood where she was surrounded by two tennis-playing parents and an older brother who went on to play for Louisville.
“I was always pretty confident when I was already like seven or 12,” Wagner said. “I was pretty confident and was up against the best in Germany, always.”
Wagner is firmly entrenched as one of the Canes’ all-time greats, but she didn’t know she would be playing for Miami just months before her freshman year.
“I came with my dad to visit and I fell in love right away. It was two months before school started,” Wagner said.
Wagner was homesick her first two years in Miami, but now hopes her time in Coral Gables doesn’t end after her final season. She plans to go back to Germany and play for a club team there, but afterward she would like to get her MBA at the University of Miami.
There’s still one more season to play before she has to worry about graduate school. Wagner’s goal this year is to win the ACC tournament or the regular season ACC conference, but she also wants to savor her last season as a Hurricane.
“It’s my last year; I want to give it my all. I want to enjoy it as much as I can, just have fun,” Wagner said.
Wagner and the rest of the women’s tennis team will be in Puerto Rico this weekend for the Fall Classic.