Seniors look to take the next step both on and off the tennis court

GVSU Womens Tennis team against Saginaw Valley State University on October 21, 2017.  GVL / Archive

GVSU Womens Tennis team against Saginaw Valley State University on October 21, 2017.  GVL / Archive

Jerod Fattal

The five seniors on the Grand Valley State women’s tennis team competed for the last time in front of their home crowd Sunday, Feb. 24 against Walsh. 

The heralded senior class — comprised of Madison Ballard, Livia Christman, Nicole Heiniger, Katarina Samardzija and Samantha Schrepferman — has won 205 individual and 81 team matches and three GLIAC titles so far, but with almost an entire spring season still ahead of them, the Lakers are determined to finish strong. 

These five seniors have shared countless victories as a team and celebrated personal successes as well, striving to help one another obtain their goals.

“We have had a lot of ups and downs over the last four years, but we have gone through it all together,” Christman said. “We have become a family and we all look up to each other.” 

Most of the seniors played tennis throughout childhood and are ready to use those 10-plus years of practice to dominate in the spring season. Though their athletic careers might soon be ending, those years of dedication and diligence and have taught them lessons in the form of memories these young women will carry with them as they move forward in life. 

“You are out there by yourself and all of the responsibility lies on you and the work you put in,” Ballard said. “It teaches you to be independent and to trust yourself. Tennis has opened numerous doors for me. I have networked with people in my job field through (tennis) fundraisers and mixers and those opportunities wouldn’t have been there without tennis.” 

The ability to make connections was a common appreciation the players felt. 

“This last year has been bittersweet,” Schrepferman said. “But the last four years have prepared us for a career outside of tennis.” 

There’s a volley of evidence to show the group is ready and eager to maximize their education and explore their passions in different career fields. Schrepferman will be graduating with a degree in multimedia journalism, which she plans to use to pursue a career as a news producer. She has already started to field job offers from news networks, including one out of South Bend, Ind., but she is taking her time to find the right fit. 

“I want to find a news team that resembles the family I have on the tennis team,” Schrepferman said. 

Christman will be leaving GVSU with a degree in human resources and has already begun looking and applying for jobs. 

Additionally, Ballard, a biomedical sciences major, will be graduating this spring, but she is still undecided on whether she wants to return to college and enter PA school or enter the job field. 

Before they know it, these seniors will rep Laker blue for the last time on the court, but the legacy they have left behind will not be forgotten. 

“They won’t just be remembered for their wins on the court, which are a lot,” said coach John Black. “But also for the friendships they created that will last for the rest of their lives.” 

With a Sweet 16 appearance on the team’s minds, the seniors are looking to close out their career with a bang. Whether they reach their goal or fall short, the senior class will still be remembered fondly

The women’s team will be back on the court in Orlando on Sunday, March 3 for the start of their spring break trip, where they will be preparing for the NCAA tournament by playing five matches in six days.