by Alan Hieber
Though her Wright State career is nearing match point, Linsey Verstrepen's fight, grit and sweat for each point will not be forgotten. She smiled and chuckled as she reflected on the last four years.
Growing up in Belgium, tennis was something that caught Verstrepen's eye when she was only four years old and played it in her backyard. She has been playing at an organized level since joining a tennis club at the age of seven when she asked her father if she could take lessons.
After being recruited by former WSU coach Sean McCaffrey, Verstrepen decided it would be one of her best options if she wanted to pursue tennis and academics.
When Verstrepen commenced her Raider career in 2013, she was not the lone freshman on the squad, joining five others. The members of that group, who gave themselves the moniker six-pack, will soon conclude their WSU careers.
“Time flies. I remember it like yesterday. We were all freshies and didn't really know what was ahead of us,” Verstrepen recalled. “We got into the groove of things real quick and were close very fast.”
Verstrepen, who was the only foreign player her freshman year, credits her American teammates with helping her overcome some of the hurdles she faced.
“It took away some of the challenge of getting over the cultural and language barriers,” Verstrepen said.
There is not an official captain for WSU, which Verstrepen says was decided by the team because each member has a distinct ability to be a leader. She feels that her role is to lead by example with her resiliency.
“I feel like other people feed off of giving it your all in matches and fighting for every ball,” Verstrepen said.
By racking up 83 doubles and 84 singles victories for third and fourth all-time in those categories respectively, Verstrepen has manufactured a legacy that will live on.
“It's a unique feeling knowing that you are one of the players that has the most wins over four years,” Verstrepen said. “There are not many people that can say that. I take it away as a compliment and that my hard work paid off.”
Having no prior experience in doubles entering WSU speaks to how remarkable Verstrepen's record is. She says Karoline Haller, who was her doubles partner for 40 of those wins, offered a good compliment to her strong play from the baseline.
“Karoline is a hard hitter. Our different playing styles match well, her being offensive and me being an all-around player,” Verstrepen said. “I think she helps me become an offensive player because of her game. You need that in doubles to get the results.”
Verstrepen is a competitor who really hates to lose, according to WSU coach Eric Burns. When thinking of moments that have stood out in her career he pointed to her ability to scrap and fight for three-set wins.
“That's what I think of when I think of Linsey. She's been able to win some really important matches,” Burns said. “You know she will try to do whatever it takes to get the win for her team.”
The competiveness displayed by Verstrepen is one quality Burns says will be hard to replace. He also noted her character.
“Off the court, she is one of the nicest and politest kids I have worked with,” Burns said. “There are never any problems to deal with and you can count on her on the court and in classes.”
When she wasn't on the court fighting for each point, Verstrepen gave an equivalent effort in the classroom as an International Business major. Her GPA is just shy of a 4.0, which has helped earn her Academic All-Horizon League for three straight years.
To juggle time on the court with studying, Verstrepen stressed the importance of having a planner.
“I use a planner and put a calendar on my wall to have an overview of my week and know that if I have an exam and practice right before, I'd better study the night before,” Verstrepen said. “I think every student-athlete is dependent on their planner to get through college.”
After she graduates and then moves back to Belgium in June, Verstrepen hopes to use her degree to work for a sports company like Nike, Adidas or one based in Europe.
As the #5 seed in last season's Horizon League Tournament, the Raiders made a gutsy run to the finals for the first time in program history. WSU fell short to Youngstown State in that match 4-2.
The experience from last season's tournament and several 4-3 losses this year have built the confidence needed for another successful result this weekend, Verstrepen says. She added it will also take plenty of fight.
“It will take fighting from every person on this team and I know that's not going to be a problem at all,” Verstrepen said. “With all of the seniors on the team, I think we're all very thirsty to get this done, leave on a good note and get that ring.”
The final page in Verstrepen's storied Raider career will be turning soon. She hopes incoming freshman will be inspired by her improvement in doubles and to be remembered in another way that should come as no surprise.
“I like to fight out there and hope people can look back at that and say, ‘She was a fighter and is up there in the record books.'”