This Thursday, Sarah Woods K’16 will be competing in the NCAA Division III women’s tennis championships for the fourth time. After making it to the national quarterfinals during her first year at K and losing in the first rounds both her sophomore and junior years, Woods will be playing in the championships as the third seed out of the top eight ranked who are eligible for nationals.
Woods, who has been playing tennis since she was six-years-old and is the only member of K’s women’s tennis team to qualify for nationals, is no stranger to competition. Before K, she played doubles all four years at her high school in Milwaukee, which was usually ranked second Wisconsin. She won the state title twice, and finished second during her senior year. After playing doubles throughout high school, she continued in college playing the number one spot on the team all four years in doubles and singles. This year Woods and partner Sabrina Dass K’17 finished the year ranked sixth, but only the top four doubles were eligible for nationals.
As a child, Woods was surrounded by athletes. All three of her older brothers played tennis, and the one closest to her in age played at Washington University in St. Louis and played in semi-nationals his senior year in doubles.
“Growing up, I would go to to all these tournaments,” Woods said. “[I’d] watch how they worked really hard, how they competed, and how they took joy from it.”
She wanted to make them proud, she added.
Her father is three-time Olympic speed-skater Mike Woods.
“He’s probably the most competitive, hard-working person I’ve ever met,” Woods said. “He never really let me quit… I am really thankful for that just because when you’re a teenager and you’re angsty, you don’t really see outside of yourself.”
Both Woods’ parents come to many of her matches throughout the season and have been to nationals to watch her compete during the last four years. But the senior’s support doesn’t stop with her family. Her private coach throughout her high school years, Timon Corwin, played at K in the 1980s, returned to K to coach, and eventually coached in Milwaukee where he coached Woods and introduced her K.
“I knew I wanted to go to a liberal arts school and [Corwin] told me to check out K,” Woods said. “…In division 1, [something I’ve found is that] people will actually quit tennis after a year. They burn out.”
She explained that she knew tennis would never be a career for her and she wanted a strong academic school where she could also play tennis, which to her meant division III schools.
“When I came here it felt like home. I loved K college. I loved the team more than any of the other teams I’d met [when touring schools],” Woods said. “…The team works so hard and everyone wants [everyone] to do well. I love my team. They’re great.”
She never played USTA tournaments during high school and that is how colleges usually recruit, so all the coaches never thought she would do something in college, she said.
“Mark was the only coach one who really saw the potential in me. [But] I don’t think either of us expected my career to go as well as it has.” Woods said of Mark Murphy, Head Coach of Women’s Tennis. “Mark is a great coach. He has honestly been the best coach I’ve ever had.”