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Sisters Look for a Memorable Season
Below is a feature story on Liberty student-athletes Jordan and Rebekah Jenkins, which first appeared in the Nov. 12-30 issue of Flames Illustrated, the official program for the opening Liberty men's and women's basketball games.
Already one of Liberty's most accomplished women's tennis players in program history, Jordan Jenkins will look to encounter even more success with her teammates during her upcoming senior season. While additional accomplishments can make her final season memorable, she is already assured it will be special, as her younger sister Rebekah has joined her on Liberty Mountain as a Lady Flame.
Rebekah's signing of her national letter of intent last fall has created much excitement for the Jenkins family and their outlook for the 2011 tennis season. However, having the siblings attend the same university wasn't always in the plans, let alone having that university be Liberty.
"Liberty was not the school I wanted to go to," recalled Jordan, thinking back to when she was being recruited by multiple tennis programs. Despite her initial feelings, a phone call from Liberty coach Chris Johnson managed to sway her thoughts. "I talked to him for a few minutes and just really connected with him, and felt like it was something I would potentially be interested in."
After making a recruiting visit to Liberty, Jordan knew it was the right place to be, saying, "I went to church here and just fell in love with the atmosphere and the mountains."
And so the decision was made, and Jordan has never looked back on what she chose. "I don't regret it even for a second. It's been one of the best experiences of my life," she stated.
In three seasons, Jordan has compiled a record of 45-11 in singles play and 44-14 in doubles play, not including her victories in fall tournaments, where she has won multiple titles including the prestigious Billie Jean King Collegiate Invitational in 2009.
Additionally, Jenkins has claimed numerous Big South honors, including being named the 2008 Big South Women's Tennis Player and Freshman of the Year, and being included on the Big South Singles and Doubles All-Conference teams each year of her career. In VaSID all-state honors, she was named Rookie of the Year and to the all-state first team in singles in 2008. In 2009, she garnered second-team all-state honors, and then earned a spot on the academic all-state team in 2010.
While Rebekah wasn't solely considering Liberty, seeing Jordan's success and experience for the Lady Flames certainly helped make the decision easier, not to mention a little persuasion from her older sister.
"I think a big part of it was Jordan telling me how this was the place that I needed to come to," commented Rebekah, while also mentioning other aspects of Liberty that she grew to admire, including the mountains, the environment and especially coaches and fellow teammates.
"You spend a lot of time with your coach, and you need to be able to mesh, you need to be able to get along," added Rebekah.
With the fall schedule now complete, Rebekah is quickly getting used to collegiate tennis. In four fall tournaments, she posted an 8-3 record in singles, including a shared title with fellow freshman teammate Annisha Domenech in the F Singles Flight at the Hokie Fall Invite, and a 7-4 record in doubles, which included a title in the B Doubles Flight at the Radford Fall Tournament when she paired with senior Hannah Fick.
While Rebekah admits that the competition is definitely "upper-level hitting," the training is the aspect that has been the biggest difference in the step up from high school tennis.
"I thought the training was going to be tough, and then I came here," Rebekah stated before continuing, "I kind of knew what I was expecting because of what Jordan had told me, but the training is so much more intense."
As the official spring season comes closer, the sisters are looking forward to experiencing the season together, which will be the first time they've competed alongside one another on a team, since they are separated in age by three and a half years.
As one would expect, though, their games have much to owe to one another. Jordan explained by saying, "All my breaks that I went back to Florida from Liberty, we would play together. It's been us two forever, since we've started playing.
"To have someone with you that's decent enough to hit with you, you never have to go searching for practice partners."
This season as a senior captain, Jordan notices similarities between her recruiting class and her sister's. Ranked No. 17 among mid-majors by The Tennis Recruiting Network in the summer of 2007, Jordan's class featured four freshmen, and quickly impacted the program. This fall, Rebekah's class also has four freshmen, and each has already made a mark by winning at least one title at a fall tournament.
In the seven years before Jordan's class joined the program, the Lady Flames' season records for wins were 12 overall, and three in the Big South. During 2008, the squad bested each of those numbers by one, and then beat its own marks the following year, ending the 2009 campaign with 15 overall wins and six victories in the Big South.
The Jenkins sisters and the rest of the Lady Flames team will look to break records once again this season, and if team chemistry has anything to do with it, they're well on their way. "I love every person on our team. We're the greatest friends," Rebekah stated. "We respect each other, and that's one of the highest priorities that you need on a team."
Wrapping up the subject of the upcoming season, Jordan stated, "I really want this to be the year," referring to winning Liberty's first Big South Championship in women's tennis. "I think we're talented and we work together so well. We have improved so much over the fall that I have the highest expectations for what's going to happen in the spring."
When speaking about her time at Liberty and what it means to have Rebekah by her side for a season, Jordan stated, "I feel like I'm a part of building this program. I feel like to bring her along and have her here with me, it's someone who has been there my entire life, and it's just fitting for her to be here with me on my last year."
There are no doubts that Jordan has impacted the Lady Flames' tennis program immensely. But once she experiences a season with her sister, hopefully full of success, the Jenkins' legacy at Liberty will look to continue with Rebekah.