Friendship on and off the court leads to success

I bet you didn’t know the College’s women’s tennis team hasn’t lost a match in 22 years.

While football, field hockey and lacrosse teams check out their full-page spreads in the paper and watch the Lions Stadium fill up with fans, members of the women’s tennis team quietly pickup their racquets and add another win to their amazing 99-0 record. They practice in rain, heat and freezing cold and play for their parents and roommates, and look for their article squished on the last page of Sports.

While the team’s success is impressive, the Lions also boast the individual triumphs of Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) All-Americans Kristen Klepacki and Jackie Gavornik. The sophomore pair nabbed the ITA Omni Hotels East Regional Doubles Championship title in September and won the chance to compete at ITA Omni Hotels Small College National Tournament in Corpus Christi, Texas on Oct. 18. The team took seventh out of eight Division III teams represented at the match and ended their sophomore fall season with a record of 32-6.

Klepacki and Gavornik’s love of the sport began long before they teamed up together. Gavornik, daughter of a tennis coach, has been playing as long as she can remember, but Klepacki, a former soccer player, didn’t pick up a racquet until her freshman year of high school. Both were high school state doubles champions – Klepacki at Moorestown High School and Gavornik at Watchung Hills. After watching them play during the summer before their freshman year, coach Scott Dicheck paired up the two during their freshman year in hopes they could remain tennis partners throughout college.

Nerves and inexperience got the better of the two rookie players during the 2002 Regionals, but the following year they came back with a year’s worth of playing time and new-found confidence. “Last year we watched (2002 ITA All-Americans) Kelly Hernandez and Amy Huah win regionals,” Gavornik said, “and Kristen and I looked at each other and said that would be us next year.”

One year later, Gavornik and Klepacki found themselves on a plane to Texas. “This year,” Gavornik said, “we knew what it took to win regions.”

“We definitely wanted to be All-Americans by our senior year,” added Klepacki. “But we didn’t expect it this soon.”

The team suffered two disappointing losses in the first two rounds. Entering the tournament as the number three seed, they lost to fourth-seeded Emory University and second-seeded Washington University before beating California Lutheran with a 6-4, 4-6(7) win. “It wasn’t that we were under-prepared or over-confident,” Klepacki said. “The other girls were just really good. Jackie and I were able to support each other and end on a high note.”

The pair credits their close friendship off the court for their success on it. “It has a lot to do with chemistry,” Gavornik said. “We talk before the match and between points, and decide what we need to do.”

“It’s a tremendous help to not only have a teammate on the court with you, but also a friend,” Klepacki said. “We’re always pulling for each other.”

The spring season brings another nationals tournament and a chance to extend their talents further. Although they’re looking ahead, the two All-Americans are staying focused on each match as it comes. “You have to take it one step at a time,” Gavornik said. “But, we can go in now knowing we’ve done it before and we know what to expect.”

As Gavornik and Klepacki are looking forward to competing for a bid to nationals next year, they’ll be looking to top their performance from this year.

“The great thing about me and Jackie is that we’re both individual players, but a great double at the same time,” Klepacki said. “When we do come together on the court, it’s like we’re one person.”