Freshman Claire Cooper balances honors college and tennis

GVL/Bo Anderson Freshman Claire Cooper sends the ball back across the nets.

GVL/Bo Anderson Freshman Claire Cooper sends the ball back across the nets.

Tate Baker

On the weekends, freshman Grand Valley State University women’s tennis player Claire Cooper isn’t partying with her fellow GVSU students, nor is she relaxing on the couch watching TV all day.

There’s no time for that when you have to juggle being an honors student and a Division II athlete.

“I’ve had to deal with a lot of added responsibility since coming to Grand Valley,” Cooper said. “I have no blow-off classes. It’s definitely a struggle at times dealing with both school and tennis.”

Transitioning from high school to college can be a difficult adjustment for any 18-year-old. Adding on the stresses of a time-consuming class schedule, while going on the road multiple times with the tennis team, can challenge Cooper at times.

“My hangout time with my friends is usually spent studying,” Cooper said. “I often wake up before 7 a.m. to study. It’s a heavy load, but it’s something I know I can handle.”

Cooper, a three-time all-state athlete in high school, was accustomed to success prior to coming to GVSU. After being a four-year starter at Williamston High School, she may be a key piece for what hopes to be a bright future for the Lakers.

“She’s a great athlete with a great work ethic,” said head coach John Black. “When recruiting, we look for players that can improve and develop into a leader on and off the court. She definitely has the potential to do that.”

As a freshman, Cooper has been spending her early Laker career at the fourth and fifth spot in GVSU’s singles line up. So far, she has posted a 15-4 record in singles play.

“She a very capable player,” Black said. “As she continues to grow and improve, she will continue to move higher in the lineup.”

Black credits a power forehand as a vital part to her game. Standing at 5’11”, Cooper is a power-hitter with a lot of upside, something Black values in a young tennis player.

“Claire has an aggressive baseline game,” Black said. “Her game plan is usually to move her opponent around. She provides a consistent presence for our team.”

Fellow teammates have noticed Cooper’s upside, and agree with Black that many goals for her are realistic and obtainable. Her competitive drive is what fellow teammates say pushes Claire to that next level.

“Claire always fights to the end,” said junior Niki Shipman. “No matter what match it is, she never loses concentration on the game. It’s a great quality to have as a player.”

As a freshman, Cooper still has potential to grow as a player. Many people around the GVSU tennis community believe Cooper has the talent to obtain her goals.

“I think Claire has the ability and talent to achieve numerous Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference awards,” Shipman said. “A good goal for her would to eventually be first team All-GLIAC. It will be a lot of hard work. That being said, I think she can do it.”

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