Walk-on uses length as strength

Walk-on uses length as strength

By Demario Smith-Phipps

She used to be made fun of because of her tall stature, but freshman tennis player Abigail Plecki now uses her height to overwhelm her opposition.

Plecki, who stands at 6 feet tall, said she has always been taller than most girls and even some guys.

“Up until this point, I’ve only played against one other girl who was taller than me,” she said. “I’m able to put a racket on anything that comes to me when I’m up at the net.”


Coach Audra Nothwehr said she hasn’t seen a player of Plecki’s height since she started coaching.

“Everyone that she plays against usually tries to lob the ball over her head, but that doesn’t work against her. She is just that long,” Nothwehr said.

Plecki said she started playing tennis in fourth grade, but she didn’t become competitive at the sport until high school. She said she also played soccer and tried basketball.

“I tried basketball for a short time, but it wasn’t really for me … Tennis was what I was best at,” Plecki said.

She accumulated 67 career doubles wins while at Lockport Township High School playing at the No. 1 slot most of the time.

She switched to singles play her senior year and finished with 20 wins that season at the team’s No. 1 singles’ spot. By the end of her senior year, she was ranked No. 14 in Illinois and No. 45 in the Great Lakes region.

Plecki said she saw an opportunity to realize a dream of hers when she arrived in Carbondale.


“I always wanted to play (Division I) tennis, but I knew that I would be playing as a walk-on,” Plecki said. “I use that as motivation. Hopefully I earn that scholarship next year.”

Although athletes who walk-on to a team don’t typically play a huge role for the team, Nothwehr said Plecki’s productivity has been refreshing.

“She was in New Orleans beating quality Division I opponents who were on scholarship,” she said.

Plecki said she learns a lot from her teammates in practice, even though she can’t beat them consistently in scrimmages.

“I get to practice against good players, and I don’t care if I win even if I lose most of the time,” she said. “My play in practice isn’t going to be great. It isn’t going to be pretty. But by the time tournament play comes around, I will have worked on my mistakes.”

Plecki said her intensity in practice and teammates’ support helps her during difficult matches.

“During our tournament in New Orleans, the team really rallied each other on. We played well because we prepared well,” she said.

At her first collegiate tournament, Plecki won a consolation championship, three singles victories and two doubles matches.

“It felt great,” she said. “But my main focus was team. The win was much more emotional and important as a team.”

As a freshman on the team, Plecki said she was happy her wins could contribute to a team win.

Although she said she is confident in her skills as tennis player, Plecki said she realizes how much work she must continue to do.

“Because I am so tall, getting into very low stances is something hard for me to do,” she said. “Coach makes sure to pay extra attention to me during these drills, but I know that she is trying to get me to be the best that I can.”