Sibel Can emerges as young leader for Lehigh women’s tennis

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Lehigh sophomore Sibel Can poses after a match against Hofstra University at the Lewis Indoor Tennis Center on March 3. Last year, Can was named the Patriot League Rookie of the Year. (Walker Wadsworth/B&W Staff)

Sibel Can first dreamed of becoming a Division I tennis player when she was six years old.

Can’s mom signed her up for weekly tennis lessons, but after a few weeks, Can said she wanted to start taking the sport more seriously. She then joined a more intense program.

“I have been dedicated to the sport ever since,” Can said.

Can wasn’t sure where she wanted to play tennis in college until a few weeks before her visit to Lehigh. She hadn’t even heard of the university until a teammate encouraged her to consider Lehigh for its competitive athletics teams and rigorous academic programs.

Can is a sophomore on the Lehigh women’s tennis team, and her years of experience are already showing in her performance and paying off through her success.

After her first season with the team, Can was named the Patriot League Women’s Tennis Rookie of the Year. On Feb. 20, she was named the Patriot League Female Tennis Player of the Week.

Last season, Can tied for the team lead with 12 singles and 11 doubles wins. She has five singles and four doubles wins so far this year.

The Florida native said she’s happy with her decision to play tennis as a Mountain Hawk but had a hard time adjusting to the new community and culture at first.

“At first, it was a pretty tough adjustment, especially since the environment was very different from home, and I didn’t really know anyone besides my teammates,” Can said. “I was used to living in an extremely diverse city where people were more culturally aware, but at Lehigh — where the diversity is not that high — that was not the case.”

Though she still misses her family and the warm weather, she said Lehigh has come to feel like a second home.

As Can settles in at Lehigh in her second year on the team, the young star finds herself embracing more of a leadership role, especially with the departure of two senior starters who graduated last May. Can has become a more vocal leader and has used her energy and focus to encourage her teammates to perform at their best.

One of the team’s graduate assistant coaches, Sam O’Neill, said Can is an asset to her team.

“She is selfless, very hard working and very competitive,” O’Neill said. “When she gets herself in the right mindset from the first point, which is becoming a regularity, she is very tough to beat.”

Another graduate assistant coach, Megan Fitzmaurice, agreed with O’Neill and said she expects Can to eventually move into a team captain role for Lehigh women’s tennis.

“I believe that Sibel possesses the necessary leadership and interpersonal skills to motivate a varsity program,” Fitzmaurice said.

As Can continues an impressive sophomore campaign, she has one goal she wants to accomplish before she graduates that stands above the rest — become a Patriot League champion.

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