Big 12 Campus Correspondent
As a Lubbock native, Kelsy Garland was around the Texas Tech tennis program before she even began playing for the Red Raiders.
Inbetween her state tennis berths and team championships in high school, Garland would go to the McLeod Tennis Complex and watch the Tech matches from the stands.
"I was thinking, 'One day I'm going to be out there playing,'" Garland said.
In 2007, her dream came true when she made her debut as a Red Raider.
Since then, Garland has made an impact in the program. A two-year team captain, she is currently third on Tech's all-time career singles victory list with 69.
Coach Todd Petty said it's no wonder the rest of the team, made up of entirely freshmen and sophomores, looks up to Garland as a leader.
"She shows them the ropes," Petty said. "She knows the intensity of the program."
Freshman Samantha Adams, Garland's doubles partner, said Garland is a good team captain because she leads not only by her words, but by her actions. She said Garland never misses practice and always arrives early.
"She definitely leads by example of how we're supposed to act and what it takes to be on the team," said Adams, a New Braunfels, Texas-native.
Teammate Caroline Starck said Garland has been a leader for most of her college career. Starck remembered coming to Tech for her recruiting visit and meeting Garland, then only a sophomore, for the first time. Starck said she noticed the team looked up to Garland even then.
Garland's work ethic is strong, but Starck said it is not the only quality that makes her an esteemed role model.
"She's got a great heart," Starck said. "She's an amazing captain because she puts her team before herself every day."
Garland believes the goal is to always come to the court with a positive mindset and willingness to work hard. Those are lessons she credits her former team captains for teaching her. She hopes her teammates pass on those traditions when they are given leadership roles in the future. With this year's group, though, Garland said it is easy to instill those qualities.
"I think this is the best team Tech's ever had," she said. "Each day we're just constantly getting better."
Garland said the chemistry, young talent and passion that each player has is what makes the team so great, and she believes they have a good chance of achieving their main goal - advancing to the NCAA tournament. The accomplishment would be a first in Tech history.
"If we do that," Garland said, "then we know that the work has paid off."
Besides being a good athlete on the court, Adams said Garland is also a good student in the classroom.
Garland, an early childhood education major, is a two-time first team Academic All-Big 12 member and was named to the ITA All-Academic team in 2010. After graduation, she plans to go to graduate school for speech pathology.
Each day, Garland said she goes to school, then practice and then to the weight room. Although the scheduling change was difficult her freshman year, she said she eventually got the hang of it.
"You just get used to the atmosphere of balancing school and tennis at the same time," Garland said. "To me, time management is very important."
Adams, who rooms with Garland on trips, said Garland always disciplines herself on doing homework, even for away matches.
"She's definitely aware of the balance (of school and tennis)," Adams said, "and it makes everyone else think about it, too."
As a star athlete and an excelling student, Garland will leave a legacy with the Tech tennis program, Adams said.
"I think her being here all four years, doing so well, making good grades, and never getting in trouble," Adams said, "she's definitely the picture of the perfect coach's athlete and a great teammate."
With only the rest of this season left in her career, Garland said she is trying to make every day count - count for winning, count for teaching, and count for working hard.
Garland said she is excited for the opportunity she has to be part of this year's team, which she believes is full of potential.
"Like we always say, 'Last one, best one' is our motto," Garland said. "It definitely is the last one, best one for me."