Life for a student-athlete is tough. Writing a 12-page German paper on a bus ride home or taking an engineering exam in a hotel lobby are examples of the weekly hassles for a traveling collegiate athlete. The key to balancing the stress is excelling on and off the ice, field, green, or in Michigan junior tennis player Chrissie Nolan’s case, the court.
Nolan has a career winning percentage of .633, winning 57 of her 90 career singles matches – an impressive stat considering she plays at the competitive No. 2 and No. 3 singles positions.
Nolan, a Glenview, Ill. native, believes her strong mental abilities translate into success on the tennis court.
“I try to maintain a consistent level of play for each match,” Nolan said. “Most collegiate players possess the physical ability needed to win matches, so the winner of matches is often determined by the player with the most mental toughness.”
Maybe an ever more impressive stat than a career .633 winning percentage are Nolan’s accomplishments off the court. She juggles the demanding academic schedule of the Business School with time-consuming sorority activities.
“I have found balance,” Nolan said. “The benefits of being a student athlete outweigh the missed social opportunities.”
Too bad Nolan misses out on some social opportunities – she won the 2000 U. S. Tennis Association Helen Shockley Award that is given annually to the individual who exemplifies the “highest standards of tennis accomplishments, character, conduct, sportsmanship, appearance and amateurism,” as well as numerous USTA Sportsmanship awards.
Nolan hopes to add one more accolade to her trophy case, but she understands what it takes to achieve at the collegiate level.
“This has been a very successful season and hopefully we will finish strong,” Nolan said. “Everyone has to play well to win a Big Ten championship, but every team (in the Big Ten) is beatable.”
This season, Michigan’s (4-2 Big Ten, 11-5 overall) two losses to Big Ten opponents (Ohio State and Minnesota) resulted in narrow 4-3 defeats. The Wolverines lost the doubles-point in both matches.
“Throughout the season, we’ve learned that the Big Ten has a lot of parity,” Michigan coach Bitsy Ritt said. A lot of it comes down to matchups and the doubles point.”
The Wolverines are undefeated this season when they win the doubles point and must play solidly this weekend if they want to knockoff Big Ten opponents Illinois (5-1, 12-5) on Saturday and Purdue (3-3, 8-9) on Sunday at the Varsity Tennis Center.
The Boilermakers struggled earlier in the season but have rebounded in the past month.
Illinois, which is tied with Minnesota and Northwestern atop the Big Ten standings, should be a tougher match for the Wolverines.
The Fighting Illini handed then-No. 1 ranked Duke its first loss of the season in late February.
But Michigan does have the home field advantage this weekend.
Michigan is 7-1 at the Varsity Tennis Center this year, winning 14 of their past 15 at home dating back to last season.
“Illinois has a lot of confidence right now,” Ritt said. “I’m certainly glad we are playing them at home.