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The Right Choice

October 21, 2009  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Jordan Jenkins with Liberty Tennis Coach Chris Johnson

Jordan Jenkins with Liberty Tennis Coach Chris Johnson

On Oct. 12, Liberty women's tennis player Jordan Jenkins won her bracket at the prestigious Billie Jean King Collegiate Invitational at the National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y.  

This weekend, the junior will participate in the ITA Atlantic Indoor Regionals in Blacksburg, Va.  The tournament gets underway on tomorrow.

Below is a feature article on the junior from Sarasota, Fla., which first appeared in the Oct. 3 issue of Flames Illustrated, the official program for the West Virginia Wesleyan at Liberty football game.

As a senior in high school, Liberty women's tennis player Jordan Jenkins had a decision to make about where to attend college and continue her tennis career. Her mother knew all about Liberty University and encouraged her to go to there. However, like many teenagers, she wanted to make her own choice.

"I was looking into a state school or a Southeastern or ACC school," said the Sarasota, Fla., native. "But, a lot of things just did not seem to fit.

"I was actually waiting one evening for a call from another coach, and then [Liberty head coach] Chris Johnson called.

"I had no intention of going to Liberty because my mother wanted me to go there, but after talking with him for about 10 minutes, I realized that it could be the right place for me.

"I loved the area of Virginia, and I was hoping to go to a school there. However, I didn't know much about Liberty or what conference it was in, but something just clicked."

And, things have been clicking ever since for the junior. In her first season at Liberty, Jenkins and her teammates bested the program record for wins, posting a 13-4 record. Last season, she and the Lady Flames topped that mark with a 15-7 campaign.

Part of Johnson's 2007-08 recruiting class, which was ranked 17th among mid-majors by The Tennis Recruiting Network in the summer of 2007, Jenkins enjoyed one of the top freshman seasons of any Lady Flame in the program's nine years.

One of the linchpins of the Lady Flames' 13-win season in 2008, Jenkins posted a 16-1 mark playing No. 1 singles during her first collegiate spring. Along with seven singles fall tournament victories, Jenkins compiled 23 wins, the most ever in a single season by a Liberty women's tennis player.

In addition, she teamed with Ekaterina Kuznetsova to record a 16-1 doubles mark in No. 1 doubles. The pairing helped the Lady Flames take the doubles point in 14 out of their 17 spring contests.

Jenkins was honored for her outstanding first season by being named the 2008 Big South Women's Tennis Player and Freshman of the Year. She was named to the 2008 All-Big South team in singles and her doubles pairing also earned all-conference honors. Later, she became the first Liberty women's tennis player to be named VaSID All-State Women's Tennis Rookie of the Year and to the all-state first team in singles.

"I never expected to have the success I enjoyed in my first collegiate season," stated Jenkins. "I had people scaring me, telling me it would be the hardest thing I had ever done, and that I was going to come here and be a small fish in a big pond.

"But, I came here and had support of teammates and people cheering me on, which really helped. In juniors, you are out there all by yourself and most people dislike you if you are doing well, so you have no one behind you and you are isolated.

"While in college, you always have people on the court with you. You have your teammates. You have a coach who can always come out and talk with you. There are many people who support you. So having all that, it took a lot of pressure off me, helped me relax and take care of business. It resulted in a good season for which I am thankful."

After everything clicked in her first year, Jenkins' sophomore season at Liberty was a little bumpier. During the summer, she contracted mononucleosis, which resulted in her sitting out the fall tournament season for recovery. Despite the lack of preparation, she returned to the Lady Flames' line-up last spring in the No. 1 singles spot and recorded a 12-7 mark. Starting off slowly, Jenkins went 9-2 in singles during the latter part of the season, helping the Lady Flames run off an 11-match winning streak.

Meanwhile, she was united with fellow sophomore Hannah Fick midway through the season in doubles. The combination had immediate success, as the pairing posted a 12-1 record.
Once again, Jenkins earned all-conference honors in both singles and doubles, helping the Lady Flames erase their victory record of a season earlier with a 15-7 team mark. She also earned 2008 VaSID All-State singles honors.

"Last season just showed me the whole team aspect of college tennis," noted Jenkins. "If you go out and have a bad day, someone else on your team will have to pick up the slack and take care of you. And, that is what my teammates did last spring.

"With our team, everyone supported me. They went out and had a great season, despite me. I didn't have the greatest of seasons, but a decent season. Yet, they picked up the slack and we won. I was really impressed by what they did.

"They showed character. I am really glad for that. For without that character, we could not have accomplished what we did [setting the program victory record]."

And they set the program victory record without a true home court. This season, the junior says she and her teammates are pretty excited with their new digs on Liberty's Campus North.

"It is an incredible feeling to have home courts. Our team is so supportive of each other and integrated that we were able to deal with it last year. However with our new courts, our program feels the support of the school and outside our team.

"The facility gives us a place of our own—a place we can call home. It is inspiring that we now have a place where people can come, cheer us on and lend their support."

While the men's and women's tennis teams are settling into a new home this fall, Jenkins has settled into life on Liberty Mountain. The government major with a specialization in international relations says not only was it the right choice to come Liberty to play tennis, but for every aspect of her life as well.

"Liberty University has been great, and it is mainly the atmosphere. Here, the landscape is beautiful, the people are nice and friendly with good old Southern hospitality and it just has a different feel. I really enjoy every aspect of it."