Daily Egyptian

Senior tennis player continues to lead

By Tyler Davis

From the nightlife of Las Vegas, to being to the wooded lands of southern Illinois, senior tennis player Anita Lee had quite a transition to make when she chose to play for SIU.

When she enrolled here, she was looking for a change of pace, Lee said. She said she found a lot more than just hunters and tobacco chewers.

“I wanted to get kind of far away from home,” she said. “When you grow up somewhere your whole life, you kind of want to get away. I like Carbondale, there’s like no traffic, I hate traffic.”

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Coming to Carbondale is more than just a getaway for Lee. It led to a very successful tennis career, including two Missouri Valley Conference titles in singles play. Her first championship, as a sophomore, she won playing in the number five spot on the team. Last semester, she won a title playing the second spot.

Coach Audra Anderson said Lee brings reliability to the team as a player and as a captain.

“Off the court, on the court, in her matches, she’s a girl you can always depend on to get a win,” Anderson said. “Very, very dependable, very good leader.”

This dependable nature has occupied Lee for a long time. Anderson said the senior has shown a willingness to lead and get involved since her first season on campus.

“Even when she was a freshman, she cared a lot about the athletic department as a whole, the school as a whole, her teammates as a whole,” she said.

Anderson said Lee participates in Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. The SAAC is a committee of student-athletes who provide awareness on the student-athlete experience. The committee also finds ways to unite student-athletes and increase participation in community service.

Lee said the SAAC organizes a lot of community service, including a program involving spending time with veterans of the U.S military.

“We do this program called ‘Valiant Player’ where we go visit the Carbondale Memorial Hospital with a couple of the athletes,” she said. “We talk to them about their day and try to make them feel better.”

Lee said her favorite community service project is the annual talent show the SAAC hosts.

“I really do like the talent show we do every year,” she said. “It is just fun because all the different sports come together and we just show off our talents other than our normal sports.”

Every year, all proceeds from the show go to the Carbondale Boys and Girls Club but Lee said this year they are considering donating it to the Special Olympics.

For all the good she does off the court, Lee remains one of the team’s best players. Coming into her senior year, Lee is one of the team’s best in conference play, posting a record of 14-5 in singles.

In doubles, she plays with fellow senior Korey Love and the duo has a 2-1 record this season. Love said having Lee as friend and teammate is a pleasure.

“We’ve been together since day one here,” Love said. “She’s my best friend, we live together. We are both co-captains, she’s awesome and we play well together in doubles.”

Lee also said she was happy to be back playing with Love; the two went 6-1 in MVC matches last season.

“I’m excited, I think that we will hopefully do really well,” Lee said. “We’re not really set on teams yet, but I think Korey and I have played together before and maybe we can win the conference.”

That confidence is well deserved, Anderson said. The coach said Lee’s consistency is a big reason for her success.

“She always brings the same intensity, same hard work,” Anderson said. “Even when she’s down, she’ll lose the first set, you don’t worry because she’s the one that always comes back.”

Lee said she has embraced that fighter spirit. She said consistency is key but believing she is never out of a match helps her as well.

“In sports like running or swimming, if you’re behind sometimes it’s hard to come back,” she said. “But in tennis, it’s always the possibility of you coming back, even from 6-0.”

Lee’s fighting spirit is present off the court, too. She has been named a scholar-athlete by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association for having a 3.5 GPA, and was named a First-Team MVC Scholar-Athlete.

With her career winding down, Lee still has high hopes for the team, but understands she is probably done with competitive tennis after this year. Lee said she was accepted to the pre-pharmacy program at SIU-Edwardsville, and intends to focus on her studies after the season.

“I don’t plan on pursuing a pro career,” she said. “Pharmacy school is going to take a lot of studying.”

Even though this is her final season, Lee said she still loves tennis and interacting with her diverse group of teammates.

“When you’re working with people from other countries, you have to learn how to effectively communicate,” she said. “But I really love the girls that I’m involved with every day.”

The captain continued her success this past weekend posting a record of 4-2 in singles and doubles play. Lee looks to continue her hot streak against Cleveland State University next weekend.

Tyler Davis can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter or @tdavis_DE or at 536-3311 ext. 269

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