Student-athlete profile on Sara Shaughnessy '14
Sara Shaughnessy '14 and the women's tennis team host nationally ranked No. 18 Tufts University for a NESCAC match and SUNY Geneseo in non-conference action on Sunday, April 6. Sara is a team captain and a four-year letter winner. This season she is tied for the team lead with 11 singles victories, most of which have been won at the second, third and sixth flights. Sara is tied for seventh place on the team's all-time list with 35 career singles wins.
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about where you grew up?
A. I grew up in Wilton, Connecticut. It is a small town in Fairfield County less than one hour from NYC. I love everything about Wilton; the people, the historic houses and the small boutique shops in the main town like the Village Market and Snappy Gator. It is also close to other nice towns to walk around like New Canaan and Westport. The weather is fairly nice all year round, so I was able to play tennis outdoors for the most part and then indoors only in the winter.
Q. How did you get interested in tennis?
A. I began playing tennis around age 5 on clay courts at a club in Wilton called the Wilton Riding Club. I competed for Jolly Ranchers during my younger years at the WRC and graduated to competing for trophies in middle school and high school. It wasn’t only the awards that kept me going, though. I had a passion for playing and a desire to fight that kept me on the court through college. I also have to give credit to my Dad, who has been my hitting partner ever since I was little. He has been a committed training partner my whole life, pushing me to compete at my highest level and believing in me during every match. Even though he has retired the racquet for the most part, he is still there when I need to get in a practice match, and I know he always will be.
Q. Did you participate in any other sports competitively before college?
A. I played field hockey and lacrosse before college. I liked both sports, but neither of them gave me the same satisfaction as playing tennis matches. I love playing an individual sport because it is a test to your own mental and physical stamina.
Q. What factored into your decision to choose Hamilton College?
A. I wanted to be able to continue playing tennis in college because it had always been such a large part of my life and personality growing up. I thought tennis would be a good physical, social and competitive outlet for me in college. Division III tennis seemed like the perfect way for me to continue to play and pursue other interests in college. I also loved Hamilton because it is a school focused mainly on writing, and I have always been passionate about writing. I am so grateful for taking so many writing intensive courses that have improved my writing and for getting involved in writing and editing our student-run magazine, The Continental.
Q. On Wednesday night, your three-set singles win against William Smith College clinched a 5-4 victory for the Continentals. Can you describe what that match was like?
A. This might have been the most rewarding match I have ever played in my tennis career. I lost the first set 2-6, won the next one 6-4, and won the last one 7-6 (7-2). This match was the biggest test to my mental strength and physical stamina at Hamilton. Some of the points lasted about 50 hits before one of us made an error or put the ball away. I had to maintain a positive mindset, which I was able to do through the support of my coach and especially my teammates who were cheering me on and believed in me through the entire match. As my coach often tells us, a lot of winning matches is about believing you are good enough, and the belief my teammates had in me allowed me to believe more in myself during this match.
Q. What do you know about this Sunday's opponents, Tufts and SUNY Geneseo?
A. Tufts is a strong team but we are also a solid team this year, so I am confident that we will battle. SUNY Geneseo will probably be a close match as they are the best of the SUNY schools, but I have confidence that every player on our team has the will to fight until the last point, and that is all it takes.
Q. Given the less-than-ideal weather for tennis in Central New York, you play a few home matches indoors in Margaret Bundy Scott Field House. What are the differences between indoor and outdoor tennis?
A. There are many differences between indoor and outdoor courts. When playing indoors, you don’t have to manage the varying elements of weather (wind, rain, potentially snow during the spring in Clinton). That being said, I do enjoy playing outdoors a lot more, because there is nothing better than playing on that day when the skies are a perfect shade of blue and the sun is beaming down on the courts. At Hamilton, we are really lucky to have a state-of-the-art field house that was recently resurfaced. So when we play inside (most of the year), we get to enjoy the nice amenities and surface of the field house. The surface is slower on the indoor courts, so it takes a little time to get used to it when we transition from indoors to outdoors.
Q. Seven NESCAC women's tennis programs are nationally ranked in the latest Division III Top 30 poll. What's it like to compete in this conference?
A. It is really challenging but also really exciting to play some of the best teams. There are some teams we always have really close matches against like Connecticut College, Colby and Wesleyan, and there are other teams that usually beat us pretty easily. It’s really fun to go out there and know you are competing against top-notch programs.
Q. The team played five matches in Orlando, Fla., during spring break last month. How does that trip benefit the program?
A. It is so great for us to be outside getting fresh air and playing in the warm weather after being cooped up in the field house all winter. It is beneficial to play teams outside the NESCAC because it gives us confidence and shows us that we are a really good team that can beat the majority of college teams out there. It is sometimes hard to keep a positive mindset when playing all really strong teams, so this trip provides us with great practice and a solid foundation of wins going into the spring season.
Q. What has been your fondest Hamilton women's tennis moment thus far?
A. There are too many to count, but one of them would have to be after I won my match against William Smith and the entire team ran up and embraced me in a group hug while our coach took a video of the entire process. The match was especially rewarding because my opponent had quite a temper and was that much more upset after her loss. My team’s vocal support caused her to reach a breaking point in the third set tiebreaker. This just goes to show how much tennis is a mental sport. If you can get inside your opponent’s head and make them believe you are a better player and fighter, you will win the match.
Q. Do you have a favorite professor or a favorite class from your time here at Hamilton?
A. I am an English major and have enjoyed the wide variety of English classes I have taken and the array of intelligent professors I have had here. I am really enjoying my senior seminar on Transatlantic Romanticism I am taking now with Professor Oerlemans. I also love my Pilates class I am currently taking with Elaine Heekin. Pilates has strengthened my core muscles and made me much more balanced on the tennis court.
Q. What are your plans after graduation?
A. I am still figuring that out. Ideally, I want to move to San Francisco and get a job out there. I love the lifestyle in San Francisco and especially the mild temperatures, which allow for outdoor activity year-round. I am very attracted to the foodie culture of SF and I really want to run the Napa Valley Marathon!