It only took one recruiting trip for Russian freshman women’s tennis player Polina Malykh to know she wanted to be a Cougar.
“I remember going to the men’s basketball game and all of the fans were screaming and clapping,” Malykh said. “It was so cool.”
Malykh started playing tennis when she was 5 years old and her older brother’s tennis coach invited her to pick up the racket.
Growing up, Malykh didn’t care about the score — she simply enjoyed the game and couldn’t go a day without playing. Malykh spent most of her time with her grandparents because it was more convenient for her to play tennis.
When Malykh visited BYU in the winter of 2016, she instantly fell in love with the energy and atmosphere at BYU.
Although she’s not a member of the LDS Church, she’s grateful for the Honor Code because of the comfortable environment it provides.
“I don’t like the atmosphere when people are drunk,” Malykh said. “I feel really safe at BYU because there are no drunk guys here.”
But while the environment is a healthy one, Malykh sometimes struggles to communicate with her American teammates. Malykh said sometimes the inside jokes among her teammates get lost in translation. Fortunately for Malykh, she can rely on fellow Russian teammate Natella Nabieva’s help.
“Sometimes I have no idea what the girls are talking about,” she said. “They’re joking and using some strange American words. I’m like, ‘Natella, what are they talking about? I don’t know, help me’.”
Nabieva also helps Malykh from getting too homesick. “Speaking to Natella reminds me of home,” Malykh said.
BYU head coach Lauren Jones-Spencer said Malykh is becoming more outgoing with the team.
“The girls told me that she’s dancing in the locker room and at weights. I’ve kind of seen it a little bit,” Jones-Spencer said. “She’s opening up, she’s very positive and she’s very sweet. I think she fits really well with the team.”
Senior Demi Perkinson agreed with her coach. She said it’s clear Malykh is coming out of her shell.
“She’s very funny, lighthearted, easygoing,” Perkinson said. “And she’s good at tennis.”
Perkinson also praised Malykh’s attitude and mindset, and said she’s always working hard to accomplish things in school and tennis.
“I think she’ll make an immediate impact as far as line-up goes,” Jones-Spencer said. “I think her tennis experience and her attitude will help push the girls and make the team stronger.”
Malykh is anxious for the season to start. She’s ready to create a memorable freshman year with her teammates by her side.
“I like the team and coaches; the girls are all super fun,” Malykh said. “I am excited about traveling, playing all together — all those memories.”