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Class of 2013: Lives of Meaning and Purpose

Honduran Represents Ideal Student-Athlete

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following profile is one in a series of news features on members of the Class of 2013, who will graduate on May 19. To read other profiles, go to PC's Commencement page.

By Liz F. Kay

Marisela Aviles Duron ’13 (Tegucigalpa, Honduras) decided to come to Providence College based on limited information — emails with her future women’s tennis coach and what she saw on the College web site. She hasn’t regretted the decision. 

“It was a leap of faith, but it has been the most amazing years,” she said.

While at PC, Aviles Duron has found success not only on the court — breaking the College’s career record for most wins in both #1 singles  (77) and #1 doubles (59) matches — but also in the classroom, maintaining a 3.8 grade point average in her major every semester since the second half of her freshman year.

The beginning wasn’t easy for Aviles Duron, who had traveled to more than 25 countries as the top-ranked tennis player in Honduras but never anywhere with snow on the ground. She started out playing the number one position for tennis, a two-season sport. As a member of the Liberal Arts Honors Program, she had to contend with honors Development of Western Civilization (DWC), which can be a challenge even for those whose native language is English.

All the traveling forced her to develop time-management skills quickly, said Aviles Duron, who receives both an honors scholarship as well as a Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship. Her grades improved after she switched to business courses, which she enjoyed much more. Now Aviles Duron is graduating with a major in management and a minor in finance.

“I had to read so many books and I was traveling on the road, so I didn’t have so much time,” Aviles Duron said. “That’s what I tell all the freshmen [on the tennis team] when they come — that it’s tough in the beginning, but you grow so much.”

“I don’t have time to nap, obviously,” Aviles Duron said. “I go back to my room and my friends might be sleeping, but I can’t do that. That’s what you need to do if you want to be a student-athlete.” It may have been a sacrifice, but Aviles Duron added it was one she loved because of the atmosphere of her team.

Athlete all her life

Aviles Duron got an early start in athletics, but not in tennis. She was a swimmer at first, making the national team in Honduras at 4 years old. She also played basketball and was chosen for the national team in high school.

But she didn’t pick up a racket until she was 12 years old. “One of my best friends had a tennis court at her house, and we started playing for fun,” Aviles Duron said. “That’s when I knew that was my sport.”

Neither her father, an engineer, nor her mother, a microbiologist who runs her own lab, were athletes, but Aviles Duron’s two younger brothers have followed her onto the court, and both are also top-ranked players. Her parents “didn’t care if I was winning or losing,” Aviles Duron said. “They just wanted me to be disciplined.”

Aviles Duron attributes much of her success to the presence of her coach, Kyle LaBranche, on the court.

She also appreciates her doubles partner, Maria Clara Bernardez ’14 (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic). They practice together and, after three years, have their own signs. “I can’t imagine playing doubles with anyone else,” Aviles Duron said. “We’ve been doing so well and understand each other so well.”

Aviles Duron was LaBranche’s first recruit.

“I kind of promised her we would build the team around her,” he said.

PC does not offer athletic scholarships for women’s tennis, so “in order to get players of Mari’s caliber, we also have to find young women who are exceptional in the classroom,” he said. “Her achievements off the court are really what earned her the opportunity to come here.”

Many players at her level rely on power, but Aviles Duron wears her opponents down by playing a strong mental game, he said.

“Her mental game is so much stronger than everybody she plays,” LaBranche said.

This season, PC’s team had an overall record of 14-8 and won the New England Championship.  

"A team effort"

Aviles Duron said she loves that tennis on the college level is more of a team effort than it was in high school, because every match counts toward the overall team score. “I don’t care that much about records but what we have accomplished as a team,” she said.

This has been clear in her leadership as team captain for two years, LaBranche said.

“Her personality has done as much for the team as her skill has,” he said.

Others have noticed her positive attitude. This year, Aviles Duron received PC’s Paul Connolly Award, given to a female athlete who has distinguished herself through sportsmanship, courage, and honor.

And her achievements have been recognized back home as well. In March, she was the subject of the cover story in Cromos, a Honduran society magazine, with the headline “Ideal Honduran youth of today”.

Aviles Duron said she discovered Providence College because of her Catholic religion, and she was not disappointed, relishing Sunday “last chance” Masses at 10:30 p.m. and Campus Ministry’s Encounters retreat.

One more thing that made the transition easier are her roommates, her three best friends from the American School of Tegucigalpa in Honduras. After she had committed to the College, she found out they, too, had each decided to attend. The three form a Honduran cheering squad in the stands at her matches, LaBranche said.

Her coach noted how she takes her religion with her onto the court — making the sign of the cross after every match, regardless of whether she wins or loses.

“She really is an example of ‘ideal Honduran youth,’” LaBranche said. 

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