Lara Tupper, winner of the 2020 ITA Central Region Cissie Leary Sportsmanship Award, reflects on the highs and lows of her time playing tennis at SIUE.
Tupper, a senior from Gold Coast, Australia, said tennis has been a part of her life for many years.
“My dad’s a tennis coach. [I] started playing when I was like nine or 10, and then from there kept playing,” Tupper said.
Tupper was recognized in May for her sportsmanship with the 2020 ITA Central Region Cissie Leary Sportsmanship Award. Head Tennis Coach Adam Albertsen nominated her for the award.
“I heard actually from some other coaches about what a great student athlete and what a great representative she would be, and I immediately thought she would be a perfect fit for this award,” Albertsen said.
According to Albertsen, the award is given to students who demonstrate sportsmanship and hard work, and Tupper was an ideal example.
“She was just able to help our program in so many ways, on and off the court. [She’s] just kind of a student athlete that works really hard in the classroom, competes at a high level on the court, but always did it with fairness and just great sportsmanship. She was just a perfect Cougar for us,” Albertsen said.
As Tupper will be graduating in December 2020, this spring marked her final season of play at SIUE. The season was forced to end early due to the COVID-19 pandemic, just as in-conference play was about to begin.
“Because I played four seasons on the team, I’m actually not on the tennis team anymore. So the previous was meant to be my last season, but thanks to corona we didn’t end up playing it, so I’m actually done with tennis now,” Tupper said.
Tupper said she was upset that this season was called off, as the team was in a good position for conference play.
“It was kind of upsetting because I feel like our team was in pretty good shape to take on all the other teams in the conference,” Tupper said. “So yeah, it was kind of upsetting and also just like, ‘This is such a weird way to end college sport.’”
Callaghan Adams, a redshirt senior from Edwardsville, said even though Tupper was upset, her positive attitude never wavered.
“When she took the news, she did it in typical Lara fashion where she was smiling and had a positive outlook on it no matter what,” Adams said.
Tupper said two victories stand out as highlights of her tennis career. One was winning the Ohio Valley Conference, and the other was when SIUE improved the year to 2-0 against Bradley University, during which Tupper defeated her opponent in both singles matches.
“When we won conference my freshman year, that was a highlight. And then when we beat Bradley this year, that was a pretty big highlight for us as a team, so I’d say they were probably the top two,” Tupper said.
Adams said in addition to her positive attitude, Tupper has many qualities that contribute to her sportsmanship.
“Lara is the most selfless person I know. She would do absolutely anything for anyone, and she’s so bubbly and always happy. I mean, she’s the best teammate that any of us could've asked for,” Adams said.
Tupper said she chose to move from Australia to SIUE not only because of the team’s success, but also the attitude of the team.
“There was another girl from Australia who was already on the team and she was from a similar area to me, and then I spoke to some of the girls who were also on the team and everyone seemed really nice … and the team was quite successful and it looked like a nice, safe area,” Tupper said.
To learn more about SIUE women’s tennis, visit their website.