Lee enjoying precious time off

May 21, 2008

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Since late April, University of Iowa women’s tennis player Jacqueline Lee has enjoyed something she had very little of during the past four years — free time.

Lee, who enrolled at Iowa in January, 2005, has thus far spent the majority of her moments balancing the rigors of academics and athletics. She excelled at both. Scholastically, Lee maintained exceptional grades while majoring in interdepartmental studies with an emphasis in health science and pre-law. During her collegiate tennis career, she won a combined 155 singles and doubles matches and played No. 1 singles the past two seasons.

Lee, along with distance runner Eric MacTaggart, received the 2008 Robert F. Ray Award at the UI Finkbine Dinner on April 22.

“It was tough,” said Lee of balancing school and sports at the Division I level. “I had a lot of nights when I would be totally stressed and I would call my parents. They were my support and they were very encouraging. However, my relationship with Jesus Christ has been my main motivation for persistence. He is my rock. It is tough when you’re traveling, doing homework on the bus, spending long hours at practice and not being able to see your professors during office hours. You can get behind easily, but you have to be disciplined. You don’t realize it until you’re done, but this was a great accomplishment.”

The Hawkeyes finished the 2007-08 season ranked No. 57 in the nation. They won their first eight duals and secured a fifth consecutive winning campaign at 13-10. During the past four seasons, Iowa has won 57 duals.

Lee graduated from Glen Oak High School in Canton, Ohio, in 2004. She completed advanced and accelerated courses in high school and graduated during what would traditionally be a student’s junior year. Because of that, Lee lost the Fall 2004 competitive portion of her career at Iowa. She will graduate from the UI in December.

“I took visits to Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Penn State and was debating between Iowa and LSU,” Lee said. “I liked the academics at Iowa a lot. Tennis at all the schools across the board was about the same, so I was looking for the strongest academics.”

For the first two years, Lee majored in pre-medicine and then spent a year majoring as a pre-physician’s assistant.

“I felt my strengths were in other areas and I didn’t want to be in medicine at all,” Lee concluded.

“The better I did, the better I wanted to do. Everyone knows the No. 1 player. It’s nice. It’s a good feeling when you work that hard and earn that position. I worked hard on fine-tuning the little things, but there is no room for error at the No. 1 position.”

When her days at Iowa are complete, Lee will become a graduate assistant at Indiana University while pursuing a master’s degree in kinesiology. Although not set on a career, she hopes to eventually put her experience in law to good work.

Lee began playing tennis as a 6-year old. Her older sister, Jessica, played No. 1 at Wright State, and her younger sister, Jasmine, is being courted by several Big Ten programs.

“When I went past Dad’s ability, he got me professional coaching,” Lee said. “I played a lot of junior tournaments. (Former UI head coach) Paul Wardlaw saw me play in Memphis, Tenn., and he sent me information on Iowa.”

Lee admits that she wasn’t serious about attending Iowa early in the recruiting process, but in the end, the combination of athletics and academics was too good to pass up. Her drive on the court and in the classroom has served her well in Iowa City.

“I always wanted to be the best and help out my team,” Lee said. “I’ve had a great experience here. I’ve been through a lot, but the pros far outweigh the cons.”

Lee alternated at No. 5 and No. 6 singles and played either No. 2 or No. 3 doubles as a Hawkeye freshman. During her sophomore season she was at No. 4 singles and No. 1 doubles. Lee played primarily No. 1 singles and doubles as a junior and senior.

“The better I did, the better I wanted to do,” Lee said. “Everyone knows the No. 1 player. It’s nice. It’s a good feeling when you work that hard and earn that position. I worked hard on fine-tuning the little things, but there is no room for error at the No. 1 position.”

Lee was named first team all-Big Ten Conference as a junior and senior and has also received academic all-conference recognition. She remembers attending the UI Finkbine Dinner last spring and looking up to Jacques Bouchard and Melanie Meister, winners of the 2007 Robert F. Ray Award.

“That’s why I was so emotional when I found out I was receiving this award,” Lee said. “It actually brought tears to my eyes.”

Although recruited by Wardlaw, Lee played her entire career for current head coach Daryl Greenan, the 2006 Big Ten Coach of the Year.

“I’m honored to have been Jacqueline’s coach,” Greenan said. “It was with great pride and pleasure to watch her growth as a student and an athlete. She is a very bright and passionate young person with a promising future.”

Lee is not ready to retire her tennis racquet. She said she wants to enter some lower-level professional Satellite tournaments in hopes of one day earning a spot on the Women’s Tennis Association tour. During her stay at the UI, Lee has always held herself to the highest standards.

“I want to be remembered as a hard worker who always conducted herself professionally on and off the court,” Lee said. “I want to be remembered as someone who always strived for excellence and everyone will remember the smile that always lit up the room.”

Year Singles Doubles Total
2004-05 15-8 13-7 28-15
2005-06 26-9 25-13 51-22
2006-07 20-14 15-17 35-31
2007-08 20-15 21-13 41-28
Totals 81-46 74-50 155-96

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