By Susie Epp
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Kansas tennis player Erin Wilbert never thought she would end up at the University of Kansas, but her adventurous and outgoing personality, along with her commitment to the game, led her to Lawrence.
Wilbert always dreamt of playing tennis for Louisiana State University. Her childhood coach and mentor knew the LSU head coach well and Wilbert made her college decision at an early age.
Wilbert grew up in Ponchatoula, La. When she was 11 years old, she started finding success in tennis and became more serious about her sport. Wilbert and her parents made the decision to follow her childhood coach to Lafayette, La., where she left her friends, animals, swimming pool, tennis court and big house behind.
“It was a big move for us because we all made sacrifices,” said Wilbert. “But I wanted to get serious about tennis and my parents supported me.”
Wilbert spent her seventh and eighth grade years in home school so she could focus on her tennis game and would not have to miss any class when she traveled. But Wilbert’s outgoing demeanor did not agree with this lifestyle.
“I spent every minute of every day by myself,” said Wilbert. “I got so lonely, I missed interacting with people and I just really wanted to be normal.”
Wilbert got her wish and returned to private school in ninth grade, but she was still able to travel for tennis. At the Super National Tournament in California, Wilbert met and talked with many coaches, but she remembered one coach above others--Amy Hall-Holt, the head tennis coach at KU.
“At that time, I still really wanted to go to LSU,” said Wilbert. “But I remember meeting her so well. I loved her the moment I started talking to her.”
As time went on and her college decision grew more pressing during her senior year, Wilbert had still not heard from LSU. She did hear, however, that one of its two scholarships had gone to another player that she had played and beaten consistently over the years.
Wilbert was frustrated, but still had a lot of options—she had offers from Cincinnati, Marshall, Murray State, Southern Mississippi, Wyoming, Wisconsin and of course, Kansas.
Towards the end of the signing period, LSU finally extended an offer to Wilbert, but she had already reassessed her priorities.
“It was kind of a pride issue,” said Wilbert. “I wanted to go somewhere where I was wanted right away. At the same time, I decided I wanted to experience a lot more and really wanted to get away (from home) and become more independent.”
Wilbert decided she wanted to accomplish this as a Jayhawk and immediately accepted Coach Hall-Holt’s offer.
Now in her sophomore year at KU, Wilbert boasts an 11-6 singles record and competed in the ITA Regional Tournament in both doubles and singles last fall.
“I love it here,” said Wilbert. “I am so fortunate I decided to come here. I really couldn’t see myself anywhere else.”