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Countdown: Despite Late Start, Mitrache Ready for WSU
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While most junior players were picking up a racquet for the first time, five-year-old Andreea Mitrache was just setting foot on American soil after a long trek from her native Romania. Winners of a green card lottery, she and her parents initially landed in New York. But her introduction to tennis would wait until the family settled in Sterling Heights, Michigan several years later. In fact, Mitrache didn't start playing until she was 12 years old, entering her first tournament at 14 - advanced age by tennis standards.

At that point, the thought of competing at a collegiate level hadn't crossed her mind.

Having played recreational soccer and basketball, Mitrache had some sports experience, but it wasn't until her father Marin suggested they go hit some tennis balls that she found her calling.

"My dad asked if I liked the sport," she explained. "I told him I did, and he said, 'Well, let's see if we can get you a coach, and let's see if you're good at it.' It turns out I stuck to that."

As simple as that decision was, Mitrache's late entry into the tournament world came with its own set of challenges. After playing just one year in the 14-and-under bracket, she was pushed up to the 16's - a move she called a "shock to the system."

"Sometimes I wish I started earlier because I would have been used to the whole tournament mentality," she said. "I ended up being very nervous at tournaments just because I didn't have that experience... I ended up losing a lot."

But, thanks to a healthy work ethic and a self-described "aggressive" game style, Mitrache saw her national ranking skyrocket from 313 to 114 between her sophomore and senior years of high school, eventually landing her a four-star designation.

So what changed?

In addition to working with a new coach, Mitrache made some psychological improvements. "If I get upset, it carries on throughout the match," she said. "We've worked on the mental game a lot, as well as just being more consistent. Obviously if you're more consistent, you have more confidence, and it will show in your play."

Though she's focused on the fundamentals, Mitrache has one weapon she's more than happy to use to her advantage: lefty spin. When asked whether she enjoys watching people struggle with that aspect of her game, she answered with a laugh.

"Of course, I definitely love that. I enjoy throwing people off in that regard. It's made winning matches a lot easier than it would be if I were a righty."

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