Big decision? Chicago, Ohio or Florida?
"It was almost 100 degrees when I visited Florida State (in September) ... really hot. I loved it there," Lara Schneider said.
So much for the winters of the Midwest. National top 30 recruit Schneider is headed to Tallahassee, Fla., after signing a national letter of intent to join Florida State University's nationally ranked women's tennis program in the fall of 2020.
It's not that Schneider didn't have other choices. As her dad Ken Schneider said, "She was offered over 122 full scholarships, and in the end it came down to two universities, Florida State and Northwestern."
Of course, the 17-year-old Wando senior grew up in Chicago where her mother, Charleston physician Sofia Aksentijevich, served her residency at Northwestern's university hospital. The family moved to Charleston when Lara was in the fourth grade.
And Ohio? Lara already had decommitted from Ohio State earlier this year.
"I wanted to be closer to home, and I wanted warm weather ... the weather was a big part of it," Schneider said.
She also liked veteran FSU women's coach Jennifer Hyde. "I really liked the coach. She's awesome," said Schneider, whose brother and sister played college tennis.
Hyde is just as impressed with Schneider (and Italian recruit Alice Amendola). "Not only are Alice and Lara high level competitors, but they also bring a standard of academic excellence that has become a cornerstone of our women’s tennis program," Hyde said.
Schneider doesn't mind that she is currently the only American of eight players listed for the Seminoles' 2020-21 roster. She rather likes the setup. Her mother is European.
Schneider trained at the Randy Pate Academy at LTP Tennis and schooled at the LTP Scholars until the end of her junior year.
"We switched to Wando because Lara wanted some remembrance of her childhood and to graduate with some of her friends ... go to the homecoming dance and prom," her father said. "She has a late in and early out (at Wando). She is training with (pros) Craig Cignarelli and Martin Zumpft and having matches against (pros) Lee Floyd and Phil Whitesell. She's now doing match play against men. She has her own coach now, and instead of five hours (training), she cut to three hours. It's more personalized."
Schneider just returned from an ITF Junior Grade A event in Merida, Mexico, where she advanced through singles qualifying but lost in the main draw first round. She is now in South Florida preparing to play in qualifying for the prestigious ITF J1 Eddie Herr tournament, followed the next week by the qualifying event for the Grade A Orange Bowl International ITF tournament.
Not having played a heavy ITF Junior schedule, Schneider's world ITF junior ranking is No. 749, while only top 100 players generally make it into main draw direct entry at major ITF junior events such as the Orange Bowl. She is currently ranked 18th in RPI and has been ranked as high as No. 31 nationally.
NOTE: Local juniors Allie Gretkowski and Sophie Williams also are scheduled to compete in qualifying for the Herr ITF event at Bradenton, Fla.
BE'S AMAZING SUCCESS
Bishop England coach Kristin Fleming Arnold was unable to witness Lily Woods' dominant march to the SCHSL Classes A-AA-AAA girls tennis state singles title. That's all Fleming Arnold missed in her 11th year as coach.
Weeklong rain postponements at the state tournament didn't fit into a previously scheduled family vacation to Jamaica for Fleming Arnold. Changing such vacation dates and travel can be difficult.
"Lily is a great competitor with a strong work ethic. I'm very proud of her for winning the state individual championships," Fleming Arnold said.
Fleming Arnold is the epitome of a great high school tennis coach. She guides the Bishops' tennis program with unmatched proficiency. Her girls teams have posted back-to-beck unbeaten records. Her boys teams also have won a pair of state titles.
"We created a strong tennis program at BE and complied with strong academics, creating an attractive atmosphere for players to attend," said Fleming Arnold, a product of the Bishop England tennis program herself where she helped the Bishops win four state titles as a player.
"We have practice every Monday and then matches on Tuesday-Thursday. We host our BE tourney every year which brings in the top schools from around the state.
"There is no real secret to nine straight titles. Streaks will be broken and matches will be lost. My goal every year is to create a strong, competitive, confident team. Part of my strategy is to create a fun atmosphere but at the same time keeping the girls focused, disciplined and ready."
So, there you have it: the secret to winning nine consecutive state titles, and likely at least several more titles before the streak ends.
EMMA, SHELBY UPDATES
Shelby Rogers didn't win the Australian Open Wild Card Challenge's main draw wild card into the first Grand Slam of 2020. But with a No. 178 current world ranking, the 27-year-old Rogers should be able to gain entry into the Australian Open's qualifying tournament in mid-January.
Emma Navarro is maintaining her amateur status as she prepares to head to the University of Virginia next fall.
Navarro has completed the junior stage of her tennis career, and is playing a number of ITF World Tennis Tour women's professional tournaments. She has had some success on the pro circuit, especially in doubles where she made the semifinals in her last two $25K events, with Kylie McKenzie at Malibu, Calif., and with Peyton Stearns at Naples, Fla.
Reach James Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org