Doubles team first in history to reach National Championships

Tennis raquet selection

Eric Coulter

Tennis raquet selection

Curtis Kalleward

History is in the making this weekend for Grand Valley State University’s women’s tennis squad.

Senior doubles partners Chelsea Johnston and Darylann Trout are currently in Mobile, Ala., competing against the top doubles teams in the nation at the 2010 USTA/ITA National Small Colleges Championships. Their victory in last month’s ITA Regional Championship earned them the chance to make the trip, a first in GVSU history.

“It’s really exciting, especially since we’re seniors,” Trout said. “We’re the first people to ever do it, and I’m doing it with my best friend.”

The road to Alabama was not easy. Along the way, the doubles team encountered old foes who presented heavy challenges. Their regional championship-clinching victory was over Sharon Gill and Kristina Goranskaya, the top-seeded duo from Wayne State University.

It was not the first time the four ladies had met in a match, though this time around their story had a different ending.

“In the finals of the ITA tournament, we beat a team that had just destroyed us,” Trout said. “They also beat us last year in the finals. It was great overcoming our nerves and believing that we could beat them, even though they’ve beaten us twice.”

A long-standing relationship and solid teamwork between the two Lakers were keys to their success, Johnston said.

“I feel like we’ve both worked so hard and it’s finally paying off,” she said. “We’ve been playing together for four years now as doubles partners. We’ve played No. 1 doubles the last two years, so I think all of that tough competition has really helped us.”

Though the pair will make their journey south without their teammates at their side, the rest of the Lakers have made their support well-known all season long, Johnston said.

“Our teammates have been awesome,” she said. “We played the finals really early on a Sunday morning, and they were all there with signs, cheering us on the whole time. They all said good luck (in Alabama) and that they want text updates minute by minute.”

Team bonding and closeness are two things many on the women’s tennis squad mentioned have been better this year than in seasons prior.

“Our camaraderie on the team is really awesome this year,” said junior Katelyn Shaffer. “Everyone gets along, which is really unique for a girls team, and with such a big team for tennis. This is the biggest team we’ve had in a while, with 11. We all cheer for each other and watch each other’s matches.”

The duo will compete in three matches this weekend starting with a 3 p.m. match today against the top team from Armstrong Atlantic State University (Georgia). The bracket style allows for consolation play, determining all eight spots through head-to-head competition.

The goal for GVSU is simple – do not finish dead-last.

“We’re just excited to go,” Trout said. “Our goal is to win one match of the three we play no matter what. The wins and losses determine if you finish first or eighth. We’re just hoping to finish seventh or higher.”

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