Tennis seniors celebrate career finale

Then-sophomore Paul Province preparing to strike the ball. Province will graduate with fellow seniors Brian LaValle and Lindsey Schlichting in May. (Photo by Jonah McKeown)

The Truman State University tennis teams finished their seasons Monday, and another group of seniors played their final matches as Bulldogs. Three players, Brian LaValle, Paul Province and Lindsey Schlichting, will graduate this May.

Head coach Dan Blodgett said the two men, LaValle and Province, and woman, Schlichting, have become more mature than when they started their collegiate careers.

Blodgett said the seniors have played tough opponents every match and, across the board, gave it their all regardless of the opponent. Despite losing final matches, he said Schlichting would always find a way to stay in the match, and LaValle’s win at No. 6 was a great way to finish up his career. He said the best part about coaching this senior class has been getting to know them personally.

Their love of the game was never questioned by Blodgett, but he said the seniors stayed focused on their futures off the court, as well. He said they showed strong leadership, and the underclassmen really looked up to them, which reflects a lot on them.

“They really will leave behind the legacy of determination and optimism,” Blodgett said. “There’s never any sign of doubt or quit in them, and I think that will rub off on other players to keep pushing themselves as they move further along in their careers.”

Schlichting said she had plenty of support during the festivities as her parents took a break from work and drove 5.5 hours to see her play. She said it would not have felt like the end if they weren’t there to cheer her on.  

As for her other family, Schlichting said she was so excited to play, but undoubtedly, her singles partner, junior Maura Dunn, and her were a bit emotional and had to make sure to keep it lighthearted during the match.

“When the last point was played, I was very sad,” Schlichting said. “Hugs from all of my teammates, coaches and parents did not make it any easier.”

Schlichting said she is proud of the way the seniors changed the mentality of their teams this year. In the past, she said the team was discouraged by their underdog status against top-ranked teams. Schlichting said she enjoyed playing with this year’s team as it had more confidence because of all of its newcomers.    

Schlichting said all three seniors hope the intensity level will remain that way for years to come. She said she is proud of the legacy she will leave behind on the court and the impact she made in her teammates’ lives.

“I want them to remember that I did my best to lead by example and always had those high expectations for myself and the rest of them,” Schlichting said. “I also want them to be haunted by my voice yelling at them whenever they try to skip out on sprints at next year’s practices.”

While Schlichting’s teammates made Senior Day such a special day for her, she couldn’t help being sad because she doesn’t want to be done yet. Schlichting said she was fighting back tears while battling tough opponents. She said she will cherish her Senior Day memories because of all the support shown by friends, family and teammates.

LaValle said he hopes his legacy centers on dedication and work ethic that inspired his teammates to be the best players and people they can be. He said there are so many unforgettable memories, but one of his most memorable was while competing in a two-day tournament in Quincy, Illinois.

It was my first tournament in college, and I got to compete as a freshman alongside Paul Province,” LaValle said. “At the time, I hadn’t realized that Paul would grow to be one of my very best friends. As for the tournament, we would start extremely far behind in every match, but manage to pull out a win at the end. I remember feeling the joy as we played out the very last point, winning the tournament and receiving our Flight 3 victory awards.”

LaValle said his feelings during Senior Day were hard to describe.

“As I ran my very last team warm up, I began to relive every memory I had on the courts,” LaValle said. “I couldn’t believe how fast my four years on the team have flown by. Memories of fun practices, unforgettable bus rides, restaurants and matches seemed to play like a movie reel inside my head. When it was time to play, I didn’t realize how much of a feeling of home those courts brought to me.”