Athlete of the Week: Dover’s Anyanwu quietly netted a great tennis career

Senior Victoria Anyanwu was a standout in both tennis and volleyball during her career at Dover High. Delaware State News file photo

(EDITOR’S NOTE: With the high school spring sports season canceled, we’re going to continue our Athlete of the Week feature with a little different format. We’re going to recognize a downstate senior athlete by sport for their career accomplishments. This week, Dover High’s Victoria Anyanwu won our readers’ poll for girls’ tennis.)

DOVER — For some tennis players, screaming at themselves during a match is no big deal.

But this was Victoria Anyanwu, a youngster known for being quiet.

“They were at (junior) nationals a couple years ago, during one of the matches with Texas she let out this huge, ‘Come on!’” recalled Dover High girls’ tennis coach Kevin Papen. “Everyone was like, ‘What was that?’”

This is a girl, said Papen, who is so calm, that when she won her first state title in high school, she “looked like she was going to get a water break.”

Being quiet, though, doesn’t mean that Anyanwu isn’t confident.

Even without playing her senior season because of the coronavirus pandemic, the 17-year-old leaves behind a pretty impressive high school tennis resume.

Anyanwu won her final 36 high school matches, capturing DIAA state championships at first singles as a sophomore and second singles as a junior. She lost only five matches in her career, with four coming as a freshman when she lost in the state semifinals at first singles.

But probably the crowning achievement to Anyanwu’s career was helping the Senators claim their first girls’ team state title last spring. Dover was slated to have everybody back from that squad this season except one player.

“It was very big,” Anyanwu said about winning the title. “The year before we lost by one point and that was hard.

“I’m sad about the way this year ended because I was really looking forward to this season. But I’m glad that I got to end at least my last season with a state title with my team.”

“Everyone was playing real well and had trained really hard (this year),” said Papen. “Everyone was pretty upset because they’d only ever won one (team state crown).

“It’s funny. She (Anyanwu) is not that girl that’s like, ‘OK, we’re going to do this and we’re going to do that.’ But she’s always been the captain. Even though she’s not in your face, everyone knows that she’s a leader.”

A year ago, Anyanwu was in the unusual position of playing second singles despite being the defending state champion at first. She switched positions with sophomore Erika Snyoski, who ended up reaching the state finals at first singles.

The two never did figure out who was going to play first singles for Dover this season. They were in the middle of their first challenge match in preseason when they stopped because of rain.

That ended up being their last practice of the year.

“I definitely worked harder during this off-season,” said Anyanwu. “I don’t know … you want to make first singles, especially coming off my sophomore year. So that pushed me harder.

“But it still didn’t change anything. It was still the Dover team and I still wanted to work hard because we all had one goal at the end.”

Tennis is the Anyanwu family’s sport. Victoria’s father, Jude, was a good player and taught all his children to play.

Her two older brothers, Christian and Charles, both played first singles for Dover, while her younger sister, Olivia, was the state champion at third singles last season.

“I love the mental aspect of it,” Anyanwu said about tennis. “I’ve always played singles. I like how I’m the one in charge of it. It’s all on you. You can decide to turn the game around and win it for yourself.”

“She is super athletic, that helps,” said Papen. “And she’s very strong-willed and mentally strong. You set your mind to it and it makes you able to do most anything. She just puts her head down and keeps competing.

“In states, with the girls in all these different locations, you can’t be at five places at once. The singles players — and especially Victoria — I couldn’t go to any of their matches. But I was never worried.”

Anyanwu is good at a number of different things. She was also a starter for the Senators in volleyball, where Dover went 22-10 and reached the DIAA state tournament twice over the past two seasons.

Academically, Anyanwu is ranked in the top 10 in her class and will be attending Davidson, where she plans to major in biology. She is also going to try to make the tennis team as a walk-on.

“I love academics,” said Anyanwu. “I love learning and school’s always been interesting to me. It’s been really hard adjusting (to online school) but, since I’m in AP, we had to continue even when school was shut down. I’ve been working. I finally finished all my classes this week.”

Considering the way her entire high school career turned out — between academics and athletics — Anyanwu know she doesn’t have much to complain about.

“I’m very happy,” she said. “I wish, of course, this season would have gone differently. But, looking back on high school, I’m definitely proud of everything I’ve done — whether it be by myself or with a team.

“I like the relationships that I’ve had over the years with people, just from the sport.”

“I think a lot of people would be happy to have that,” Papen said about Anyanwu’s career. “Even though she didn’t get to do four years, she accomplished a lot.”