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ND Women’s Tennis: Sanders adjusts without twin

Megan Finneran | Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Over a decade ago, a father took his twin daughters out on a court and started feeding them tennis balls. At five years old, neither girl could hit a single one, but the dad never gave up. Now, both of these girls are college athletes on full tennis scholarships, and one of them calls Notre Dame home.

Irish freshman Britney Sanders remembers many occasions of not wanting to play the sport that had taken over her life.

“Tennis took up all my time and I never got to hang out with my friends. The only dance I went to in high school was my senior prom. I had practice six days a week,” Sanders recalls. “All I wanted was to be normal and not have tennis be my life.”

Sanders and her twin sister, Nikki, began playing at a tennis academy as high school freshmen, so when they joined the high school team sophomore year, they caught the school by surprise. Sanders remembers the semifinal game that year as her most memorable tennis moment thus far. After the sisters brought their underdog team to a winning level, they lost the first game in the semifinals.

“It was one of the hardest moments in our season. We couldn’t believe that it was over. We cried with each other and it was then that we all realized how close we grew together,” she said.

After that season, Sanders’ negative feelings about tennis changed as she realized her love for the sport. As she traveled to tournaments and played against athletes from all over the world, tennis transformed more than a stressful waste of time to something that kept her fit and healthy.

“I love pushing myself and having people push me, and I loved the fact that I had something going for myself,” Sanders said. “I was doing something with my life.”

Just as her dad pushed her as a little girl, a small push later on in life led Sanders to the place she is now. One day he came home with Rudy, the classic Notre Dame pull, and after putting off the old movie for days, she gave in.

“I ended up crying at the end and falling in love with the movie,” Sanders said. “As soon as I watched it I wanted to go to Notre Dame.”

Although her twin sister, Nikki is at Texas Tech, the two still hold a special bond.

“I look up to my sister a lot. She will give it her all in matches and she won’t go down without a fight,” Sanders said.

Although her sister did not join her with the Irish, Sanders has found plenty of sisters at heart.

“I have seven other girls playing next to me wearing the same uniform I am and cheering me on. I’m not just representing myself anymore on the court,” she said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better team.”

With only one college tournament under her belt to date, the future is not set in stone, but Sanders is ready to take whatever comes her way.