Lauren Proctor, Winthrop
Brian Ormiston | July 27, 2018
Just south of Charlotte, in Rock Hill, S.C., sits a dominant women’s college tennis program. In the last 20 years, all under head coach Cid Carvalho, Winthrop University has reached the NCAA tournament 16 times while racking up enough Big South Conference trophies to fill up its team bus.
While the Eagles have boasted an array of talent throughout their lineup along the way, Lauren Proctor immediately raised the bar when she joined the team for the 2015-16 campaign.
Not only did Proctor receive Big South Freshman of the Year honors that season, she also went on to become the first female Winthrop student-athlete to be voted as the overall Big South Player of the Year three straight years. The 2017-18 honor was not enough to reward Proctor for her junior-year performance, as the league also named her the Big South Conference Female Student-Athlete of the Year, an award that factors in all student-athletes at every sport and every school in the league.ADVERTISEMENT
USTA Player Development and the USTA Collegiate Team took notice as well, providing a grant to Proctor to help pay for some of her expenses as she traveled to compete in professional tournaments this summer. She took full advantage of the opportunity, earning a place in the WTA Top 1000 with her results.
A rising senior out of Bradenton, Fla., Proctor capped off the 2018 season by leading Winthrop to its first NCAA Tournament victory, and she later was named an NCAA Doubles All-American. During her travels on the ITF Pro Circuit in Europe, where she reached the semifinals of an event in Portugal to claim her first WTA ranking points, she provided some insight into her tennis career.
Q: When you were young, when did you realize you could compete on a national and collegiate stage?
Lauren Proctor: I think the realization came when I was actually working with my current coach, Cid Carvalho, back when I was about 9 years old. With him being a college coach, he told me when I was very young that if I kept playing and kept trying to get better every day that I could find a scholarship at a university. Little did I know that I would end up going right back to where it all started for me, though.
Q: What was that recruiting process like?
Lauren Proctor: It didn’t take me long to realize how unbelievably incredible [Carvalho] was as a coach. Throughout my whole career and as I grew up, I lived and practiced in many different places but always kept in contact with Cid. When it came time for looking at colleges, Cid offered me a scholarship right away, but I wasn’t initially sure that was what I wanted. However, as I thought about it more and time passed, I realized that Cid and Winthrop would most likely be the best place for me, and it was definitely the right decision.
Q: What was it like during your high school years, as you were enrolled with the Florida Virtual School for four years but also had a chance to play for Lakewood Ranch High School?
Lauren Proctor: Well it only happened [my senior] year, where I was enrolled in Florida Virtual as well as playing for my local high school, Lakewood Ranch. I think it was a nice opportunity and a good decision because I was able to play alongside some really nice people and also bring a new level of success to the school, which is always very humbling.
Q: What would you want to stress to current junior players about the college recruiting process?
Lauren Proctor: I would stress for them to explore all their options before making a decision. I would also tell them to really pay attention to the coaches and make sure that wherever they are thinking to go, to make sure they like the coaches and get along with them.
Q: What has been the highlight of your collegiate career so far, both as a team and as an individual?
Lauren Proctor: It’s tough to just choose one because there have been so many highlights and special moments for me at Winthrop. If I had to choose just one, as a team, I would say our first ever NCAA tournament win over Auburn would be the highlight. As an individual, I would say my ITA Regional win would be my highlight because it was the first in my program’s history and I played so many great matches against great opponents.
Q: What was the last month of the 2018 collegiate season like for you when you were focused on the conference and NCAA tournaments, but also trying to plan out a professional summer schedule?
Lauren Proctor: It was a bit hectic, to be honest, because although it was the end of the season, it’s also the most important time of the season and you really just want to do the best you can for yourself and your team. At the same time, though, that time of the season is by far the most exciting and I feel like it’s the time when we really come together as a team, which is always great. Planning my summer schedule was also a bit of a mess, so that added some stress, but in the end it was all OK because everything worked out and I put together a great end of the season as well as a great summer schedule.
Q: What was your summer schedule?
Lauren Proctor: For my summer schedule, I decided to spend most of it in Europe playing in Portugal. I started with one week in the U.S. before heading to Portugal, where I played for five weeks before playing my last week in Spain.
Q: How much has college tennis helped you in your tennis career?
Lauren Proctor: College tennis has helped me so much in my career because it gave me the opportunity to play so many matches. I am so grateful to college tennis because all of these matches allowed for me to improve across all areas of my game, mentally, physically and emotionally. I believe because of this, it has allowed me to reach the results and level I have today, and there are still so many improvements to be made and so many more levels to reach.
(Photo credit: Todd Drexler)