Fresh off of finishing her fabulous Dos Pueblos High School tennis career — one punctuated with an unprecedented 135-0 league record and a ‘4-peat’ as Channel League singles champion — Lauren Stratman has been named Presidio Sports Sports Figure of the Month for November 2011.
Equally amazing, perhaps, with this Columbia University-bound senior is her 4.8 scholastic GPA that underscores the same grit, determination and total commitment in her classes … as on the courts.
It’s all the culmination of a near lifetime of hard work for Stratman, 17, who first started swinging a tennis racket as a toddler.
“When my dad came home from work, he would toss me balls in the backyard. I had a golf-like swing back then,” she says.
Persistence paid off …
As the years rolled along, they would later do the same for a couple of hours after school everyday at Cathedral Oaks Tennis Club where dad, Hugh, is tennis director.
She entered her first tourney at age seven and within a year was well on her way.
Lauren won her first tournament at the Santa Barbara Tennis Club at age nine.
At 14, she won her first national event – the Mike Agassi ‘No Quit’ Tournament in Las Vegas.
At 15, she was playing the best junior tennis players in the world with the International Tennis Federation.
At 16, she was playing regularly in USTA National events.
“It’s been great spending all this quality time with her and watching her game grow,” offers her coach and proud papa. “When she first beat a ranked player at age 9 or 10 – we knew she was going to be very good. And, believe it or not, she can still get better.”
For now, though, Lauren will take the next month off (save for a fun doubles tourney in mid-December at the Home Depot Center in Carson) and re-charge after the recent CIF Finals in Seal Beach and her Top Four finish.
After back-to-back, same day marathon matches with only an hour to recover during the ‘Sweet 16s’ and quarter finals action and fighting near exhaustion from illness, she dug deep.
Inspiration and perspective, as usual, came from her #1 fan — her mom, Sheryl, sitting nearby in the stands.
“Mom keeps me focused on ‘the big picture’ and told me that this was it for my high school career and to just go for it and finish well.” Lauren proclaimed. “Nothing had been working for me. I was always on the defensive. Somehow I managed to hold on and get into the semi’s.”
But the next day against Megan Manasse, the ultimate CIF Champ and whom Lauren had beaten in all her previous matches – found that her ‘tank was empty.’
Physically exhausted from six hours of tennis the previous day and still feeling under-the-weather, she knew after the first three games, it just wasn’t meant to be.
It still marked her best finish ever – not bad for someone ranked 37 in this 2012-year of tennis recruits and #6 in California.
Lauren takes it all in stride …
Her dreams of a pro tennis career have come (age 5) and gone (14).
Instead, she now sees her sport as a springboard for a great Ivy League college education where she will study business.
Down the road a little further, she’s hoping for a possible ESPN internship and maybe a career in law.
She’s excited about this next stage on the East Coast and after the December holidays she will first ramp up again for the spring tournament season.
And for her, tennis has long been a family affair …
She recognizes and appreciates the commitment made with all the love and sacrifice — everything from training and countless weekend travel to perspective and focus.
“My dad has really been my only coach and it’s been great, though kind of challenging at times because I can be kind of stubborn. My mom keeps me levelheaded and on the right path. And my sister, Kate, is a DP sophomore who is a wonderful player and who also did very well this season …
I wouldn’t have been able to achieve everything I have accomplished without their support.”
Lauren is also proud of making healthy lifestyle choices …
She ‘Just Say(s) No” to partying, alcohol and drugs while maintaining close personal friendships with peers who feel and behave the same way.
She is a model of inspiration for others coming up behind her and with whom she shares this personal message:
“I want to encourage young kids to try a sport as it can provide many opportunities for them as it has for me.”
“Lauren is a true champion on-and-off the court and the type of student-athlete we want at Dos Pueblos — from working hard in the classroom to giving everything she has in the sport,” says Dan Feldhaus, DP Athletic Director. “We wish her continued success at Columbia and on whatever course she sets in life.”
Safe to say, this multi-time Santa Barbara Athletic Roundtable Player of the Week … DP tennis MVP … Channel Island League MVP … with 4.8 GPA … who makes healthy choices — Lauren Natalie Stratman has set a new baseline for excellence.
And has certainly ‘aced’ her spot in the Santa Barbara sports world for the ages.
One likely never to be repeated, er, 4-peated ever again …