If she laughs too much or speaks in thinly veiled pop-culture references, Osbourn Park senior Carola Royuela can be excused. The native Bolivian did, after all, learn her English from “The Simpsons.”
“I like Bart he’s my favorite of all the characters,” Royuela said. “And I like to watch movies. That’s also how I learned a lot.”
Living with a mother who stressed education and previously sent a daughter to college in California, Royuela planned to go to the United States after she finished high school. That timetable changed when her mother, Blanca Saavadra, became engaged to Prince William County resident Pedro Alvarado.
Alvarado’s an ex-Marine and a native of Puerto Rico. He and Saavadra met on the Internet and then established a long-distance relationship, Royuela said. The wedding date has not yet been set.
“It just happened,” she said. “I never thought I was coming [to the United States] this soon. I thought I was coming for college, but if it happens for this reason, that’s great, too.”
Now that she’s here, Royuela’s quickly established herself as one of the best players in the county. Her only loss through four singles matches was 6-3, 6-4 to Stafford’s Laura Johnson, last year’s Northwest Region champion.
Royuela, 16 years old and 1.7 meters tall (5-foot-7), admitted that she was nervous in her first match. In Santa Cruz, Bolivia, she played on a school team in volleyball but as an individual in tennis.
“It is weird because I always used to play with me, myself I could just care about me,” she said. “Now I care about the whole team.”
At Osbourn Park this year, seeds two through six are returnees from a deep 13-1 team that sailed through an undefeated regular season. Royuela, nevertheless, quickly made her mark this summer as the Yellow Jackets’ top seed.
She moved to the area on June 21 and has grown more comfortable here, despite missing some of the “noise” she liked from her hometown. “I don’t like how quiet it is here,” she said. “But I do like the malls and the roads.”
On the court, her biggest frustration has been the style of play. In her travels in Bolivia, she was able to play better competition on a more regular basis but she said the top players here are similar to the top players back home. Her late uncle, Alfredo Padilla, got her started in tennis when she was nine years old.
“She can do everything; she’s just a good player,” Osbourn Park coach Lisa Rucker said. “I think she gets frustrated because she wants to hit the ball with a lot of pace and nobody here hits with pace.”
Stonewall Jackson coach Mepes Johnson also praised Royuela’s game, saying, “She certainly looks like a nice player. She has all the hits, the pace and the placement. She’s tough to adjust to.”
This fall, Royuela would like to earn a college scholarship to play tennis. She said she would like to study business administration as it relates to travel and tourism. Though she had lived in Santa Cruz her entire life, Royuela’s travels have included visits to Brazil and Chile.
“I love to travel and I went all over Bolivia for tennis,” she said. “Now I get to play in a whole new place.”
The Royuela File
Birthdate: Oct. 12
School: Osbourn Park
Family: Mother, Blanca Saavadra; sister, Stephanie (age 20)