Feb. 21, 2003
By Kelly Spencer
The Santa Clara
As Santa Clara's top-seeded women's tennis player for three consecutive years, senior Christine Limbers possesses a refined level of confidence in her ability to play and her team's ability to win. With the 2003 season in progress, she hopes the combination of fresh talent, experienced players and a distinct emphasis on team camaraderie will earn the Broncos a West Coast Conference title and a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
After 16 years of involvement with tennis, Limbers has developed a style of play that combines mental focus with physical strength and endurance.
"A lot of college players hit really hard," said freshman teammate Nicole Jackson. "But Christine's game is really mental. She's very consistent and very smart. She goes after every ball and plays with a lot of strategy."
As media attention concentrates on the team's star - Limbers currently holds Santa Clara records for the second most doubles wins in a season and fourth highest career singles and career combined doubles victories - Limbers eagerly attributes her success to her team and coaches.
"I am who I am on and off the court because I have the most amazing people as teammates," said Limbers. "We have the most amazing girls and coaches on our team that make showing up for practice each day fun and worthwhile."
Limbers' personal goal for the season entails continued mental focus - playing her game regardless of who her opponent might be, what their ranking is or the hype surrounding any given match-up.
"That stuff plays with your mind and your confidence," said Limbers, who defeated nationally ranked Edith Pakay of Loyola Marymount during the semifinals of last season's WCC championships.
"It's never over with Christine," said teammate and fellow senior Mariko Kawakami. "She's so mentally tough."
It is not just opponents who are intimidated by Limbers' talent. Teammates also find her mental strength and physical endurance daunting.
"She has a really loud grunt," said Kawakami. "And she ground strokes her opponent to death, she has really punishing ground strokes."
Said senior teammate Ashley Campbell, "[Christine] is very aggressive and her grunts definitely contribute to that. Her drive is very intimidating."
Beyond reaching the NCAA Tournament, Limbers' goals for the team stress team solidarity, a priority that has evolved substantially since her freshman year.
"I think when I first started playing college tennis, success involved winning - as a team and individually," said Limbers. "Now the most important thing is the fellowship we have as a team and investing in that. You're always going to win or lose but that fellowship will always be there."
As the team's captain, ensuring team unity includes showing constant support and encouragement for other players, particularly freshmen.
"It's really exciting to have new people on the team to build on the family environment we already have," said Limbers. "Not many teams in my experience have what we have - and for that I feel extremely blessed."
As a singles and doubles player, Limbers is equally committed. She enjoys the opportunity to hit finesse shots while playing doubles but enjoys the individualized challenge that singles play offers.
Limbers' former doubles partner, Santa Clara graduate Nicole McCord ('02) noticed that Limbers' dedication rubbed off on McCord. Unusual to most pairs where partners have opposite techniques to balance each other out, McCord and Limbers fed off of each other. When one would over hit the ball, the intensity and aggression would transfer to the other.
"We'd tend to do this when we had a huge lead, luckily," said McCord, who earned the WCC Doubles Team of the Month award last April while teamed with Limbers. "We liked to say that these episodes happened when we got bored, we wanted to make the doubles matches entertaining."
The intensity of Limbers' dedication is evident off the court as well. As a communication major, she plans to get her Ph.D. in Christian psychology and pursue a career as a marriage family Christian psychologist. Although Limbers is unsure how she will weave tennis into her post-graduate life, the thought of terminating her involvement in the sport is unimaginable.
"I love tennis so much that it's going to be a part of my life for the rest of my life, but I'm not sure how," said Limbers.
For the present, Limbers is not thinking too much about life after college tennis.
"It makes me sad to know that this is my last season," said Limbers. "I'm trying to focus on this season and stay in the moment."