Valicenti treasures final swings
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs High School grad Christi Valicenti didn’t get a Disney-approved ending to her collegiate tennis career, but that did little to tarnish her four years as a college athlete.
Valicenti, a Steamboat Springs High School graduate, wrapped up her senior season at Lake Forest College in Illinois in May, or, rather, she was in the process of wrapping it up.
Valicenti was playing with her team in the Midwest Conference tennis tournament, a team affair compared to the individual competition that took place in the fall, and she came away from the tournament with a highlight she’ll never forget.
With the score knotted at 4-4 against Carroll University in the semifinals, her team’s fate was on her shoulders. All the other matches were complete, and all the attention was on her’s.
She came through, winning 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, to send her team into the finals against Grinnell College.
Things didn’t go so well there, however. Grinnell swept the doubles competitions then won one quick singles match, giving them a 5-0 lead.
Matches don’t continue if they won’t affect the overall outcome, and with Grinnell holding that lead in a best-of-nine competition, it was decided, so the day was over.
“That was my last college match,” Valicenti said, “and I didn’t even get to finish it.”
Still, it was a stellar career for Valicenti, who finished with 157 wins for Lake Forest.
She helped her squad to a conference championship in the fall and was an integral part of Lake Forest’s dominating handball team throughout her college career.
“There were points I was definitely a little burnt out because it was just a whole new level of competing in college,” Valicenti said. “It was a lot of balancing, on top of senior year academics, but it was also something I wouldn’t trade for the world. I got to meet some incredible people, not just from my team, but from other teams, and I got some amazing experiences.”
One of those experiences, with fellow Steamboat Springs High School graduate Carter Kounovsky, was helping that handball team to an eighth consecutive national championship.
The team managed a sweep when it came to national titles last year, winning on the men’s side, the women’s side and, of course, the combined title. This year, the squad was second on both sides, but that still added up to enough to claim the overall combined title.
“That was really emotional,” Valicenti said. “I was really close to all of my teammates, so ending that was very bittersweet. We did get the 50th national title for Lake Forest, which was awesome, to go out with a bang for my last year.”
Kounovsky was recognized as both the team’s most improved player and the most improved player from the 140 men at the tournament.
Valicenti was recognized with the Forester Commitment Award — the women’s most valuable player award — as a four-year letterman and with the captain’s award for the team.
Now for Valicenti, it’s on to more school in Chicago to focus on being a graphic designer, with some tennis and handball mixed in wherever possible.
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