Notre Dame senior Kelcy Tefft of Enid, Okla., is among the top doubles players currently competing in college tennis. Now ranked second in the ITA doubles rankings with junior Kali Krisik and third with freshman Kristy Frilling, Tefft is one of the most decorated all-around players in Notre Dame history, earning All-America honors in doubles in 2008 and giving Notre Dame its second collegiate Grand Slam title in history after winning the ITA Midwest Regional Championships during her junior year. Tetft, 22, is in her final semester at Notre Dame, where she is majoring in sociology and computer applications. She recently took time from her busy schedule to answer some questions for USTA.com.
USTA.com: Since the juniors, you have been a top doubles player, but going to your final spring of college tennis, you have established yourself as one of the top – and most consistent – doubles players in the country. What are some of the areas that you’ve worked on to set yourself apart?
Kelcy Tefft: I have always been very comfortable at the net, which has made doubles a little more natural for me. In practice, I hit returns almost every day because I was taught that serves, returns and first volleys are the most important because a lot of doubles points do not last far beyond those shots.
USTA.com: You teamed with Brook Buck in a majority of your matches over the last three seasons and in many junior events. You are now ranked No. 3 in the nation with freshman Kristy Frilling. How was the adjustment to playing with a new doubles partner? What are the different elements that each of you brings to the court?
Kelcy Tefft:Brook and I played together for about 10 years, so I was a little nervous about getting a new doubles partner this year. However, Kristy and I played very well together from the start. It was an easy adjustment for me to pick up Kristy as a partner. I did have to switch to the ad courtside, though, which called for more work on my returns. Kristy and I are good friends, though, and that makes the on-court communication very easy. Kristy hits a hard ball while, I use a little more finesse. I think we balance each other out well.
USTA.com: What is a typical day like for you?
Kelcy Tefft: Well, right now I live a pretty laid-back life. I am about to start working in the Adidas department here at Notre Dame, though, which will keep me busy. I only have one class Tuesday and Thursday afternoons (thanks to summer school). I usually take a private in the mornings, and we have two hours of practice in the afternoon, then some sort of conditioning or weights after. Then I go to dinner with the team a few times a week. At night, I’ll hang out with teammates or friends. I am getting much more sleep this semester than any before!
USTA.com: You have an exceptionally deep team this year. Are practices and challenge matches pretty intense?
Kelcy Tefft: We try to keep practices intense, but we have a good time, too. Our team is especially deep this year, which is great because everyone you are hitting with or playing against is challenging you. But we are never so intense to get into line-call disputes or anything like that.
USTA.com: What are your goals for yourself and for your team this season?
Kelcy Tefft: I am trying to work hard every minute I’m on the court to set a good example for my teammates. We have a lot of talent, so I know we have the opportunity to go very far as a team this year. As it was mentioned before, we have a very deep team and three good doubles teams. If we keep working hard, I expect us to go very far at NCAAs, and, as always, we want to win the Big East tournament.
USTA.com: Which opposing school has the toughest crowds to play in front of?
Kelcy Tefft: Texas A&M. We have played there twice, and one year they were on spring break and still had a great turnout.
USTA.com: Most people know that student-athletes spend a lot of time traveling via plane, bus and van. How do you and your teammates keep it interesting?
Kelcy Tefft: We have a very entertaining team, so there is never really a dull moment. Most of the girls have schoolwork on trips, and we definitely get good use out of our ipods and laptops.
USTA.com: You played basketball in high school. Did you ever ponder playing basketball and not tennis in college?
Kelcy Tefft: No, I always knew I was better at tennis than basketball. I could have played at a small school, but I have always wanted the Division I college-athlete experience. I do miss it, though. My brother plays, so when I go watch him, I wish that I was still playing.
USTA.com: Who have been your biggest influences in your tennis career?
Kelcy Tefft: I have so many. I have been blessed with great coaches throughout my career. John Williams and Tim Richie were both responsible for developing and shaping my game throughout juniors. And, of course, Jay and the three assistants that we have had continue to help me improve.
USTA.com: Closing in on the end of your career at Notre Dame, do you have a match that sticks out as being particularly memorable?
Kelcy Tefft: National Indoors my sophomore year, we were in the semis and playing a very close match with Northwestern. It was tied at 3-all, and Brook Buck ended up winning, 7-6, 7-6, in the last match to put us in the finals.
USTA.com: What’s the best thing about college tennis and about Notre Dame?
Kelcy Tefft: I love the team aspect of college tennis. Having a great team to support and push each other keeps tennis fun. Notre Dame has so much tradition and has opened a lot of doors for my teammates and me.
USTA.com: What are your plans after graduation?
Kelcy Tefft: I will either continue to play tennis or go to graduate school at the University of Oklahoma for athletic administration.
USTA.com: What advice do you have for junior tennis players who want to play in college?
Kelcy Tefft: I would recommend for kids to play other sports also when they are in junior high and high school. The junior circuit can be very tiring and eventually make tennis not fun any more. I played basketball all growing up and throughout high school, and it not only gave me a good break from tennis but also showed me what being on a team was all about and has made me a better team leader and captain. But if kids want to play tennis in college, they have to still keep tennis first in their priorities.