Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Anushka and Megha Dania, twin freshmen on the Lehigh women’s tennis team, were not deterred from making the 25-hour drive from Austin, Texas, to the Lehigh Valley upon the start of the 2020-2021 academic year.
Coming from a COVID hotspot, the Danias had to spend the first two weeks of class quarantining in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in an Airbnb with their dad, before moving into their dorms for the start of their college careers.
“When we found out the team was going to train, we wanted to (be there) to be a part of the action,” Anushka Dania said.
The Danias took the court for the first time as collegiate athletes on Sept. 7. The team of 10 started their practice schedule of five hours per week dedicated to skill work, strength conditioning and fitness — until athletics shut down indefinitely on Sept. 29 due to an increase in positive coronavirus cases, just 22 days after practice started.
The Danias have yet to experience a match and, instead, have had a limited amount of time on the court. Since formal athletic practices stopped, the Danias have been carrying out training and hitting on their own.
Their partnership has mattered now more than ever. The Danias look at having a twin sister as a built-in practice partner, always having each other to hold themselves accountable.
Despite the uncertainty of athletics, the Danias also came to Lehigh for its academic reputation, with a primary focus of taking classes in the computer science field, each hoping to obtain computer science and business degrees.
The Danias are not only tenacious in the classroom, but they also contend with and against one another on the court.
“Between siblings, there is a lot of competition, and we always wanted to one-up each other by comparing and competing with stats,” Megha Dania said.
If one or the other is not performing to the best of their abilities, Megha Dania said they can give each other a hard time because they are siblings.
“She tells me my weakness and strengths, which is good for me because we can’t hide from the fact that we need to improve,” Megha Dania said.
Megha Dania knew from an early stage she wanted to commit to Lehigh and recalls urging her sister to join her. “Let’s do this together,” Megha Dania said.
Although it is rare to come in as a pair, women’s tennis head coach Sarah Hendrix recruited the twins as a two-for-one. What better way to capitalize on a dynamic duo who had an irreplaceable relationship on and off the court for singles and doubles competitions?
“When coach (Hendrix) would talk to one (of us), she would also talk to the other,” Anushka Dania said. “We were like a package deal.”
Hedrix instantly fell in love with their high energy and positive growth mindsets, describing the twins as the embodiment of the process and experience that she, and Lehigh, focuses on cultivating.
“Their feet (are) always bouncing,” Hendrix said. “They will add depth and talent to our doubles lineup.”
The competitive and high energy natures of the Danias can be attributed to their father, who inspired them to take on the next phase of life together and compete at the collegiate level.
The bond the Danias share as a family is one thing, but their bond as twin sisters runs even deeper.
Anushka Dania looks forward to not only playing for herself or a team, but also for her sister. Megha Dania also turns to the bond she shares between her and Anuska to keep herself grounded.
“There is no one I’d rather spend every second with,” Megha Dania said. “I need her more than she will ever need me.”