By Jean Frierson
If he feels like Meg Kowalski been playing on the Georgia women’s tennis team for about a decade, there’s a good reason for that. She’s been an outstanding player since her freshman year, and no one has ever loved being a Bulldog more than Kowalski.
Kowalski had an incredible freshman year in 2018-19, going a ridiculous 25-1 in singles and helping the Bulldogs win the ITA Indoor Nationals and reach the NCAA Championship Finals. She was 12-4 as a sophomore before the season was interrupted by the coronavirus, and she went 25-4 last year, including a 13-3 record in third place in singles after playing sixth place his first two years.
So far this season, Kowalski of Chicago is 13-4 overall and she is 6-0 in doubles matches this spring, playing singles matches No. 5 or 6. Before the Big weekend for the No. 7-ranked Bulldogs at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex, with a game Friday against LSU and Sunday against No. 12 Texas A&M, Kowalski has won his last six full games.
Kowalski, who graduated in December, is a fourth-year player, but this isn’t her last round with the Bulldogs. She still has one year of eligibility left because of the pandemic and she’s going to use it. During a quick chat before practice Wednesday, she talked about her time at Georgia, her desire to play one more year, the joys of being on a team and more.
Here is part of what she had to say:
Frisian: Do you feel like you’ve been here forever?
Kowalsky: It does! [Laughs] But at the same time, I look at the freshmen on our team, we have a very young team, and I feel like I should be in their shoes. I feel like I should still be a freshman. With COVID taking part of my sophomore year away from me and last year still being kind of a COVID year, now I’m a senior and I’m like, what the hell is this? How am I already here?
As for the mindset, I graduated in December and started my masters early to get a head start on everything, and I feel like I’m pretending not to leave, because I don’t want to leave. It’s not yet a sad year, and I’ll try not to think about it next year. I had the best time of my life and I don’t want to think about the end of my career.
I’m in fourth grade and I’m coming back for my fifth year, and I don’t want to think about leaving. And maybe I’ll come back for a sixth year if they let me.
Frisian: You don’t have to leave Athens, you know. My parents met at school here in the mid 60’s and have lived here ever since.
Kowalsky: Maybe I’ll stay here, I don’t know. It’s a decision I’ll have to make in a few years – I claim it’s a few years from now but it really isn’t. [laughs]. We will say that it is in a few years.
I want to leave the team, leave the program, leave Athens, I know that once I graduate (from graduate school) and am done with my eligibility, I will live definitely a different life. It will be sad not to see everyone and not be in the community.
Frisian: Given your passion and enthusiasm for college tennis, have you thought about becoming a coach one day?
Kowalsky: I hate to say it but I won’t coach [laughs]. I’m pretty confident that after my last point I’ll be playing tennis with the “G” on my chest, I hope to put the racquet down and not pick it up – unless someone makes me do ALTA (Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association) league or something, wherever I am. I think I want to finish my career and have that last happy moment.
I don’t know if I have enough patience to coach. Watching (head coach Jeff Wallace and Associate Head Coach Drake Bernstein), they are amazing coaches and I know there are so many more great ones in UGA athletics. It’s such a hard job to do and I know I raise hell for coaches [laughs]so I don’t know if I was in their place if I would be able to handle people like me.
I think I’m excited for something new. Once I’m done with UGA athletics, I want a new chapter. I’m already excited to enter the job market and be a businesswoman, to start a new chapter and a new journey in life. At the same time, I won’t be ready to leave next year when I have to say goodbye to my sports career and everything.
Frisian: What do you prefer in tennis now? Has that changed since you were a senior in high school?
Kowalsky: I really think my favorite thing about playing tennis at the University of Georgia is the team aspect – 1000%. After my freshman year I played a summer tournament, it was a little bounty tournament, I ended up winning it, which was great, but I didn’t enjoy it at all because it there was no team. I won the tournament but the girls next to me, they weren’t playing with the same “G” on their chest.
I think the family vibe here and being part of the Georgia family has had a big impact on my career. That’s part of the reason why I have no desire to play professionally. It’s the team or nothing for me [laughs].
(This Q&A has been lightly edited for length and clarity.)
Deputy director of sports communication Jean Frierson is the UGA Sports Team Writer and Curator of the ITA Men’s Tennis Hall of Fame. You can find his work at: Frierson Files. He is also on Twitter: @FrersonFiles and @ITAHallofFame.