Valicenti thriving in senior season: Winter 2015 collegiate athlete roundup
Steamboat Springs — There’s so much to do before May, Christi Valicenti explained, and even then, she said she knows it won’t be finished.
A senior at Lake Forest College in Illinois, Valicenti has been plenty busy. She reached the midway point of her final season of collegiate tennis in October, a successful stint that included a championship at No. 2 singles in the Midwest Conference tournament and a runners-up finish at No. 1 doubles.
Now, she’s midway through her final season of collegiate handball, as well, eager to help her squad — on which she’s a team co-captain — to its eighth consecutive national championship.
So what happens after five more months of the wild sports schedule in which Valicenti has thrived for years?
“My tennis doubles partner, we’ve already discussed it,” Valicenti said. “We want to do some traveling to compete in doubles tournaments together.”
She has plenty to look forward to before that, though.
Valicenti’s tennis championship in October helped her team edge out St. Norbert College and Grinnell College to win the conference title for the first time since 2003.
Along the way, she became the school’s all-time leader in career singles and doubles victories.
That’s only the start when it comes to tennis, however. The squad is hoping to back up those results when things get going again in late February and earn its first trip in recent seasons to the NCAA championships.
“It would be a huge deal to make it this year,” Valicenti said.
In the meantime, she has handball to focus on. She started into that sport as a freshman with little idea what to expect.
“It’s a really challenging sport,” she said. “When I first started, I was frustrated, because I wasn’t picking it up quickly, but I really put my mind to it, and it’s something I’ve really enjoyed and gained a passion for.”
Last February, the team — which also features Steamboat graduate Carter Kounovsky — won the national title for the seventh year in a row, also taking both the mens and womens titles. It was the first time since 2011 the team won all three, the overall team title and both gender championships.
The plan is to repeat that all this February.
Even after it’s all finally finished, though, Valicenti said she doesn’t see her love of sports coming to an end. In addition to continuing to play tennis in doubles tournaments, she hopes to stick with handball and even to coach it if the opportunity arises.
“That’s something I’ve really taken a liking to this year,” she said, considering the mentoring she’s been able to provide as captain on the handball team. “I love to teach some of the new players how to play, so I definitely want to stick with handball, too. It’s become a really important part of my life.”
Jamey Swiggart, tennis
2012 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School, senior at University of Utah
Swiggart went 6-2 in singles play and 3-1 in doubles action in the first part of the Utes’ season. The team wrapped up its fall schedule in October and hits the road to start its spring season Jan. 15 with a trip to Hawaii.
Jake Miller, basketball
2012 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School, senior at Nebraska Wesleyan University
Miller’s high-scoring Prairie Wolves are 8-3 on the season after a 13-13 campaign last year. Miller has seen action in six games this season and scored five points. The team returns to action Jan. 2 with a game in Lincoln, Nebraska, against Mount Marty College.
Ali Diehl, tennis
2012 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School, senior at George Fox College
There wasn’t much of a fall season for the George Fox team, though Diehl did play well in a large September tournament, running through the doubles consolation bracket with teammate Andrea Motley. The bulk of the season for the team kicks off in February.
Maggie Stanford, volleyball
2012 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School, senior at Sewanee: The University of the South
Stanford finished her final season with the Tigers in November, racking up 167 kills. That placed her second on the team, which finished its season with a 10-15 record.
Ellie Bender, tennis
2014 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School, sophomore at Doane College
Bender kicked off her sophomore season by playing No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles. It didn’t go well in the one day of fall action her team participated in, a home match against Fort Hays State University. She went 0-2. The season will slip into high gear in February.
Mikaila Jegtvig, volleyball
2014 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School, sophomore at Laramie County Community College
The Golden Eagles came within a few points of advancing to the regional championships in November during a five-set match against Western Wyoming Community College. The team finished the season with a 26-15 record. Jegtvig finished as one of the team’s leaders with 142 kills.
Taylor Harrington, volleyball
2015 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School, freshman at Whitman College
Whitman, in Walla Walla, Washington, finished the season with a 6-16 record. Harrington spent much of the season playing behind upperclassmen and saw time in seven games, recording one kill.
Luci Franklin, swimming
2012 graduate of The Lowell Whiteman School, senior at Saint Michael’s College
The Purple Knight’s season got going in November, and Franklin had several strong performances in the first section of the team’s schedule. She was fifth in the 400 individual medley at the North County Invitational, hosted by State University of New York at Potsdam. That helped the team to a third-place finish. She also was second in both the 50 backstroke and helped out in a leg of the 400 freestyle relay in a meet Nov. 13.
Jacey Schlegel, basketball
2014 graduate of Soroco High School, sophomore at North Platte Community College
The Knights are off to a 6-5 start to the season. Schlegel has played in seven games and contributed 11 points and six rebounds.
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