Over the weekend, unprecedented athletic history was made at the College as sophomore Jackie Shtemberg won the National Singles Championship.
Shtemberg, along with doubles partner senior Christina Contrafatto and senior co-captain Mike Klimchak, represented the College at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) National Small College Championships in Mobile, Ala.
The tournament was hosted by the Copeland-Cox Tennis Center, one of the world’s largest public tennis facilities.
The championships began on Wednesday, Oct. 10, with eight singles and eight doubles team regional champions from each of their respective divisions fighting for the coveted national titles. Approximately 5,000 student athletes have competed this year in 61 regional tournaments to reach Nationals and the winners, including the three Lions, had prepared vigorously for the tournament.
“I prepared by just trying to keep in shape as much as I could and getting as much practice time on the courts as I could,” Shtemberg said. “I definitely felt more mentally prepared this time, because I knew more of what to expect and not to be nervous.”
“I definitely felt more prepared this time around,” Klimchak agreed. “I was able to see my first round opponent in St. Louis so I felt somewhat prepared.”
“‘The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare,'” he continued. “My dad told me that quote in the younger years of my athletic career, and I’ve been trying to live by it ever since.”
Klimchak finished seventh in the men’s singles championships, defeating Trinity University’s Oliver Gaines 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 to earn his first ITA All-America citation.
“Overall I played pretty well,” he said. “All I wanted to do was play and compete hard and I feel like I did so I have no regrets.”
Shtemberg and Contrafatto also did well in the doubles championships, finishing seventh. The dynamic duo went 1-2 in the tournament and also earned ITA All-America honors as doubles partners.
Last year, Shtemberg finished sixth in Nationals as a freshman singles player, earning All-America honors in the process, but this year she was on the prowl for the championship. No. 2 seeded Shtemberg squared up against No. 1 seeded Siobhan Finicane of Pomona-Pitzter College in the finals and took her down in straight sets 6-3, 6-4 to claim supremacy over all other female Division III tennis players in the country.
Shtemberg now has a staggering career singles record of 42-5.
“It feels great; words can’t even describe it,” Shtemberg said when asked how it felt to be a national champ. “I think a lot of determination and focus gave me an edge over my opponents.” When asked about her history-breaking victory, Shtemberg said, “I’m really honored to be the first and to even participate in such an event is an honor.”
Head coach Scott Dicheck was also proud of Shtemberg’s performance.
“(Shtemberg) was the best athlete out there,” he said. “She was able to accomplish something that has never been accomplished, and that means a lot.”
Shtemberg’s record-setting performance proved no one can stop a Lion when she is on the hunt for a national title.