Less than an hour after signing her letter of intent to play tennis at Illinois, Bullis senior Ines Vias was on her way to the gym, getting ready to put in another workout session that has helped mold her into one of the top-ranked tennis recruits in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Vias, 17, made her college decision official Wednesday afternoon when she signed to play tennis on a full athletic scholarship for the Fighting Illini, a top 50 Division I women’s tennis program last season. It was a choice she felt confident about once she visited the campus for the first time last Friday.
“After meeting the girls, meeting the academic advisers, the trainers and the coaches, I fell in love,” Vias said. “Everything that I wanted was at Illinois.”
Vias seriously considered 10 college offers before narrowing it down to two – Illinois and Tennessee, with the Volunteers coming out on top two months ago when she orally committed. But her comfort level with Illinois Coach Michelle Dasso and interest in the school’s business program persuaded Vias to make the switch.
“I told [the Tennessee coaches] it’s best for me to go to Illinois,” said Vias, who de-committed from Tennessee on Monday. “It had nothing to do with [Coach Mike Patrick] or the program. … Illinois was a better fit for me.”
Born in the West African nation of Togo, Vias and her family settled in Germantown when she was 5 years old, the same age she began playing tennis.
Coaches and parents of other players have always told Vias, who calls Serena Williams her “biggest role model,” that she had a special talent, but it wasn’t until 2012 when Vias realized she could play with some of the best.
She won a doubles title at a national U.S. Tennis Association tournament, finished third at the girls’ 16 and under clay courts tournament and captured International Tennis Federation junior titles in Benin and Togo, all before her first semester of sophomore year at Bullis was completed.
“That year I was winning multiple tournaments and that led me to compete even better throughout the last few years,” said Vias, who plays USTA tournaments and trains with the Junior Tennis Champions Center at College Park year round.
For the Bulldogs, Vias, a two-time All-Met first-team player, captured the No. 1 singles title all three years she played for the team, and led Bullis to its first outright ISL AA league title last month.
After waiting anxiously for national letter of intent signing day to arrive, Vias allowed herself a moment to feel relaxed when it was all over. But with exams, more tournaments and college quickly approaching, Vias doesn’t intend on giving herself much down time.
“Just because I signed doesn’t mean I want to slow down,” she said. “I really want to work hard this year. I want to go into next year and make a full impact.”