It was a point to remember. Far away from home and with her family and teammates looking on, Jackie Shtemberg roared.
“Come on!” she screamed in relief as the reality of the moment set in. She had done it.
She had won her point, a long and painful one against No. 1 seeded Siobhan Finicane of Pomona-Pitzer College whose drop shot had the No. 2 Shtemberg scampering across the court. She had taken the match, 6-3, 6-4 in straight sets, ending the day’s final Alabama battle. Her training, her conditioning, her determination, everything had paid off. She had made history. She was a champion.
Within hours, the College’s athletic Web site posted the sophomore’s grin on Oct. 13 as she posed with her 2007 Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Singles National Championship trophy, the first Lion to claim the prestigious honor. More than 18 months removed from her time in the champion’s spotlight, Shtemberg has a new milestone to add to her ever-growing résumé.
In a match against Skidmore College last month, Shtemberg gained her 100th career win at the College, an accomplishment not often achieved. Much like her final championship point, the current junior’s triple-digit winner was no cakewalk.
“I wouldn’t say I was struggling,” Shtemberg said, “but it wasn’t the easiest of matches and I was like, ‘I’m not waiting for the next one,'”
Shtemberg did not wait as she and freshman doubles partner Felice Trinh won the match 8-5 to reach her landmark victory.
Commenting on the big win, Shtemberg said, “Whether or not it’s a big deal on record, to me it feels good especially because I’m not done yet.”
Like many great athletes, Shtemberg’s success can be somewhat credited to her own sport-relation eccentricities, certain superstitions that factor into each match. Such behavior includes using a certain combination of tennis balls that she has been playing well with or compulsively stepping on out-of-bounds lines around the court in addition to many others, according to her.
A few blasts of techno music prepare Shtemberg for battle but it is truly her off-court work that sets her apart from other players. Miles of running each week in the gym coupled with a personal trainer and a typically healthy diet lead Shtemberg to believe that she can outlast any opponent, especially in heavily heated conditions. Commenting on her preferred playing conditions, Shtemberg said, “the hotter the better.”
Since freshman year, Shtemberg’s success has always been admired but she never seems to feel the pressure of being a team leader.
“Not to sound weird, but people have always kind of looked up to me. I love the pressure and stepping up for the team,” she said.
As the season continues, Shtemberg looks to continue her journey toward the NCAA Division III National Championships, a feat she wishes to accomplish before graduation, as well as working on her health and exercise science and business double major.
Although she still has more than a full season of time to dominate opponents, Shtemberg wants to be revered when her screams no longer echo through campus. She wants to be the one everyone is compared to, the standard of greatness at the College.
She is on her way but attributes her success to not only hard work but her family as well. Taught at a young age by her father and always playing with her sister through high school, her family has centered around tennis since Shtemberg was a child.
After all of her accomplishments, Shtemberg still calls her mother after each match to tell her what happened. “I forgot to call my mom after this one match,” Shtemberg said. “She was like ‘oh you didn’t call me’ and I was like ‘it was a stupid match though, their team was sick and didn’t play well’ and she was like ‘I know but I still like to know.'”
“I couldn’t have done any of this without my friends and family,” Shtemberg added. “I’m not alone in this.”