By Amy Salvatore
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
The old cliché ‘do what you love and it won’t feel like work,’ is actually a reality for junior tennis player Hailey Barrett. Barrett stumbled into tennis at age five and quickly found a love for the game that still exists to this day.
“My parents said that one day I came to them and said that I wanted to play tennis. They didn’t know if I saw it on TV or something. It was random because my parents were never really involved with the sport,” Barrett explained. “I wanted to go out and compete, and tennis allowed me to do that.”
Hailing from Lansing, Michigan, Barrett turned her tennis goals into reality as she was tabbed as Michigan’s 2012 ‘Miss Tennis’ as well as ranked the 66th-best player in the country. She was the third-best player in the state of Michigan and earned a five-star ranking from TennisRecruiting.net.
After a standout career at Grande Ledge High, Barrett found herself on a path to West Virginia University.
“I was talking to a few schools, and then I started talking to the coach (Tina Samara) here. I decided to come visit, and everything just fell into place. I took a chance three years ago, and I love it here,” Barrett said.
However, things did not come easily for the team’s No. 2 singles player.
In the 2013 season, the Mountaineers’ experienced several changes throughout the women’s tennis program. West Virginia transitioned into the Big 12 and hired a new coach for the following season. In the midst of all the chaos, teammate Ikttesh Chahal was at Barrett’s side to help guide her through these changes.
“We weren’t really close my freshman year, but we became closer the following season. Considering we were the only two left on the team at the time, I think the coaching change really brought us closer together as friends and as teammates,” Barrett stated.
While it wasn’t the easiest of times, they were both there for each other.
In the spring of 2014, Barrett continued to face adversity and was diagnosed with Mononucleosis half through the season. Even though she felt better during the summer months, she began to feel the same symptoms of fatigue and muscle weakness when school started back up again.
Barrett was determined to don the Old Gold and Blue this season. She visited a ton of different doctors throughout the course of the year, but no one had an answer.
“Everyone said there was nothing wrong and that everything was normal. Finally, a couple weeks ago I was told that I have a really low body temperature, almost hypothermic, and that I have been battling this condition since last spring,” Barrett explained.
Barrett’s physical condition continues to affect her, but she refuses to let it bring her down. According to second-year coach Miha Lisac, Barrett has always been somebody who is dedicated to her own improvement. He witnessed her overcome these battles, and has seen her strive for greatness every day.
“I think she has a lot of maturity and willpower within her. It is very difficult to expect something like that as an athlete, which is another obstacle that she has to battle,” Lisac explained. “I think she is doing a very good job staying focused on the right things and the things that she can control.”
Even though there are certain things out of her control, she continues to get better and do the best that she can in a given situation. She is willing to take steps forward regardless of the physical conditions that she has to overcome. Soon enough she will learn to benefit from these unforeseen circumstances.
While sitting out some matches this season, Barrett learned to become the leader on the team. With such a young squad, she helped the coaches reiterate things to the freshmen as well as preparing them for obstacles that await.
She is not just teaching someone how to do a forehand or a backhand, but how to be a Mountaineer, and in that leadership role, it is not just about what she does on the tennis courts, but off the courts.
“She helps us continue to establish the environment that we want to have in the program. There are a lot of small actions that she does, but she also helps us on the tennis courts. She is somebody who works hard and continues to focus on improvement, which is something that we preach,” Lisac stated.
Barrett is a true Mountaineer, and she continues to do what she loves day-in and day-out. The drive to play is still within her, and she continues to keep fighting for what she loves.
“If I had to describe Hailey in one word, she is a fighter. She is a fighter on and off the court. It is really hard for her to compete with her condition. She is always so drained after practice, but yet she is determined to be on the court for her team,” Chahal stated. “She loves tennis so much and pushes through her matches because her love of the game is so strong. She wants to be on the court every day. It’s what she loves.”