ITA All-American Senior Spotlight: Ashley Lahey, Pepperdine
Though the college tennis season was cut short, the ITA still named its All-America teams for the 2020 campaign. USTA.com caught up with some of the upperclassmen on that list for a "Senior Spotlight" series that will run through the month of May. Next up is Pepperdine's Ashley Lahey.
The ITA's No. 1-ranked women's singles player will be back for a fifth season. Pepperdine senior Ashley Lahey, a Hawthorne, Calif., native, has starred for the Waves throughout her time in Malibu, earning All-America honors in each of the last three seasons.
After the NCAA season was cut short in mid-March, it appeared that her career would come to an early end. But after the NCAA granted spring athletes an extra year of eligibiliy, she decided to return for one more year.
In addition to their leading lady, the ITA's No. 13-ranked team will also return Top-40 players Anastasia Iamachkine and Jessica Failla, in addition to prized recruits Lexi Ryngler (an ITA Top-60 transfer from Texas) and Nikki Redelijk. After enjoying success with a largely new-look roster this season, head coach Per Nilsson and his improved squad will be primed to challenge for the NCAA title next season.
Here's more from Lahey, who also won the 2018 Master'U title with Team USA.
USTA.com: What does it mean to you to be named an ITA All-American your senior year?
Ashley Lahey: Being named ITA All-American is a special honor. It’s always very exciting to get that accolade, as it shows how much work my team and I have all put into developing my game.
USTA.com: How did you find out the season was going to be cut short?
Ashley Lahey: I was hanging out in the tennis lounge that whole morning that cancellations were being made. It became clear fairly quickly that it was only a matter of time before the whole season would be canceled. It was a very strange day. I woke up and got ready to go to practice just like any other day, but then things took a weird turn pretty quickly. It was also pouring rain, which made the whole thing sadder and more ominous.
USTA.com: What was your initial reaction, and how has your perspective changed since then?
Ashley Lahey: My initial reaction was just that I was extremely disappointed. I had put a lot of work in, and the season was going very well. I was enjoying playing and felt like my teammates and I were getting better every day. Our trajectory looked very promising and I was super excited, so having the season pulled out from under us without warning was shocking and frustrating. Since then, I’ve realized that there are much bigger issues at stake here and that those are far more important than a tennis season. I’m making the most of the situation and really enjoying this break from everything. I’m learning new musical instruments, languages, drawing and spending time with family, so I can’t complain about my quarantine situation.
USTA.com: What moments or memories stand out from your college career?
Ashley Lahey: My favorite college career moment was winning the semifinal clinch match against Vanderbilt to make it to the finals of National Indoors. It was 3-3 and came down to my match against [current WTA player] Astra Sharma. I remember the whole match had been incredible... just insanely high-level tennis from both of us. To add to that, she is such a class act, and the sportsmanship on court that day was something else. I felt like we were both just completely in the moment, enjoying the incredible battle we were in. When I won that match, she congratulated me with so much class and respect that I was amazed. I remember thinking, "Wow, this is what college tennis should be all about." All around, it was just a great moment.
USTA.com: Have you decided if you will return for a fifth year of competition, given the NCAA's exception on eligibility? What went into your decision?
Ashley Lahey: I’ve decided that I’m coming back for a fifth year. I love Pepperdine. It’s a very special place. It’s the best place possible for me to continue to train and develop my game, as the coaches there know me better than anyone and my teammates are amazing. The practice environment is full of energy, and it helps me stay motivated and excited to play. I think I still have some things to work on in my game that the coaches will help me develop in this last year. Also, my academic experience at Pepperdine has been incredible, and I can’t wait to further my academic career there.
USTA.com: What is your school planning for graduation? Will there be a virtual event?
Ashley Lahey: We have postponed graduation but still haven’t set a date. We plan to have an in-person ceremony.
USTA.com: What are your post-college plans?
Ashley Lahey: I plan to play pro and then eventually go to medical school.
USTA.com: How have you been spending your time at home during this pandemic?
Ashley Lahey: I have been learning new instruments and languages, learning to paint, playing games with the friends and family I’m quarantined with, finishing up school, re-reading Harry Potter, exploring the mountains in Santa Barbara (the trails are still open) and watching movies. I don’t get bored easily!