After a 4-3 match win over Milwaukee last weekend for the women’s tennis team, senior Ariel Dechter etched her name atop the Bradley record books by setting the school record in wins for doubles (59) and singles (74).
Oddly enough, Bradley tennis has the Dechter family pediatrician to thank for its new career wins leader.
“I was seven years old, and I wasn’t getting any taller, so my doctor suggested I needed to find an indoor activity or sport to get some exercise in,” Detcher said. “I picked tennis, and I ended up absolutely loving it and couldn’t stop playing. My dad played in high school, so we would play all the time, and then my brother got involved too, so it turned into a family activity.”
When Dechter first came to Bradley, she knew attaining these records was always a possibility.
“When I was a freshman, I didn’t really think about setting any records a whole lot, but it was always in the back of my mind,” Dechter said. “I just tried to stay focused on playing good, solid tennis while setting more reachable and realistic goals to achieve.”
Getting over the hump and breaking the records, however, was not as easy as Dechter thought it would be.
“I’m glad to have finally gotten past this,” Dechter said. “I didn’t do that great in the fall because I knew I was close to them, and it might’ve been messing with my head a little bit. I was putting unnecessary pressure on myself, so I decided to relax a bit and try to just enjoy playing.”
According to Dechter, what sets her apart is not her athletic ability, but her coaching staff and positive mindset.
“Both the coaching staff and my team do a really great job of supporting me,” Dechter said. “No matter if I’m up or if I’m down, playing well or not, they’re always there for me. I also work on my attitude a lot and try to stay positive even if I’m not doing so great.”
Head coach Matt Tyler said he has enjoyed his time coaching Dechter and helping develop her skills.
“[Dechter’s] freshman year was my first year here too, so I feel like we’ve sort of been on this journey together,” Tyler said. “At that point the program was struggling, and Ari along with Ashley Thai really helped turn things around. It’s been a blast and an honor to help Ari become the tennis player that she is today.”
Tyler believes Dechter’s strongest asset is how hard she works.
“There’s no substitute for work ethic, and throughout her entire collegiate tennis career, all she’s done is worked her butt off,” Tyler said. “What you’re seeing in her breaking these records is that hard work [paying] off. Another great quality about Ari is her mental toughness. She has the ability to say, ‘You know what, I’m losing right now, but I can still come back and win this match.’ Which she did this weekend and was a perfect example of how she is able to overcome a difficult situation.”
After college Dechter has plans to stay involved with tennis.
“I’m going to start working in the accounting field in September, but I definitely want to join a league so I can still compete,” Dechter said. “I may even coach on the side.”
However, before she graduates there is still one goal that Dechter has yet to cross off her list.
“My goal all throughout college has been to be Missouri Valley Player of the year, and I definitely feel like this is my year to win it,” Dechter said.