Drexel University’s Kendra Bunch made history this year as the tennis program’s winningest player ever with a record 63 singles wins and 66 doubles wins over her four year career.
Bunch, a 21-year-old senior from New Jersey who grew up and trained in Florida, played her last match of the regular season on Sunday, also recognized as “Senior Day.”
“It was definitely a surprise to me,” said Bunch of the record. “I didn’t realize how many wins I had. I definitely felt inspired. It has definitely encouraged me to want do more.”
When Bunch began playing at Drexel in 2014, she primarily competed in the number six position, the last seat on the team. And even though she had a winning record (14-7) in singles as a freshman, she said she always struggled with her confidence and as a result, was “in and out of the lineup.”
In her sophomore year, she primarily played in the number five seat, eventually earning the opportunity to compete in the number three spot, the highest she’d ever played in her collegiate career. This was the year she said she began her journey to get where she is now — the number one player on the team who also holds the program’s best record.
“It was always mental, because physically, I know I have it. It was just a matter of me believing in myself. Once I got that confidence, everything clicked,” said Bunch, remembering a turning point that pushed her to believe in herself.
“One match in my sophomore year against the University of Delaware, I was playing three at the time — that was the highest I ever played in the lineup. Going into the match — I was nervous, I was like “Am I going to be able to win, Do I have what it takes?’ My coach told me ‘even at 50 percent, you can still beat this girl.’ I won that match. I played the best match I ever played. I remember that match distinctly because I attribute that match to a lot of my success now.”
Drexel head tennis coach Mehdi Rhazali said Bunch’s belief is one of the strongest assets she brings to the team, helping them to several notable victories — including their first ever win against Temple this year, and wins over Villanova and Georgetown.
“From day one she had to figure out her game style — playing in the North, playing indoor tennis is a little different from [playing] in Florida. We had to work with her [on] being aggressive and going full out every time. Once we built good momentum and good confidence, that transition [happened] to being this offensive player that everyone fears.”
Teammates shared Rhazali’s view, stating that Bunch, a co-captain, brings a mental toughness that pushes them to do better.
“She always brings it, she’s always happy. She always motivates us,” said sophomore Ghita Benhadi, Bunch’s doubles partner. “When I would be tired, I would see her moving, I would be like, ‘Kendra can do it, you can do it too.’”
Co-captain Ryshena Providence joined the team the same year as Bunch. The only other Black woman on the team, she said they’ve grown together.
“It’s been quite the experience to look back, how we came in together and how we are ending together. I’m proud of the way that Kendra and I have grown as tennis players and individuals…on and off the court,” Providence said.
“Kendra has brought a great deal of composure, demonstrating by example how to be composed in tight situations and also when you’re doing really well — don’t get too cocky — because your opponent can come back really quickly. That’s one of her biggest strengths — being really neutral every single time she steps on the court.”