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Women's Tennis defeated by Boston University Rose Schlecker (white hat) Credit: Pete Lodato

Many high school athletes dream of being recruited to their college of choice’s varsity team, but recruitment certainly isn’t the only way to get noticed.

Just ask Rose Schlecker.

Having been both the vice president and captain of Penn’s club tennis team, she decided in the spring of her junior year to try out for varsity.

And not only was Schlecker one of two walk-ons to make the team, but the junior is already making a big impact.

At the start of the 2009-10 season, the Quakers were hardly in perfect form. Having lost seniors Maria Anisimova and Ekaterina Kosminskaya to injury, the roster had only six healthy players — just enough to field a team but leaving little room for error.

It didn’t help that the team had come off a disappointing 3-14 season and had just welcomed a new head coach.

But for Schlecker, it was a classic case of perfect timing. At the same time that first-year coach Sanela Kunovac was looking to beef up her roster, Schlecker was seeking her next challenge.

It was Schlecker’s mother, an alumna of the Penn varsity tennis team, who made the connection and told Kunovac that her daughter would be really interested in joining the team.

“I wasn’t really sure if there were spots available,” Schlecker said. “So, I told the coach that I wanted to try out, and I just felt that the timing was right.

“I considered [trying to play varsity] when I arrived here freshman year,” she added. “But I ended up not trying out freshman year, and I joined the club tennis team instead just until the end of this past semester.”

For sophomore Brianna Fram, Schlecker’s former teammate on the club team and its current captain, Schlecker was “always our crack mixed-doubles player.” Even while playing against men, she managed to win a lot of important matches for the team.

Fortunately for Kunovac, Scheckler’s doubles skill still shines through now that she’s on the varsity squad.

According to the coach, Scheckler has one of the best records in doubles, and with the help of fellow walk-on freshman Emma Whitfield, she delivered in the only doubles match win of conference play.

Even so, Schlecker was looking for a challenge when she decided to try out for the varsity team, and a challenge she received.

Although there is no dearth of talent on the club tennis team, both the level of competition and the time commitment are much higher on varsity, where travel and physical activity can take their toll.

“She’s been at Penn for 5 semesters without having this second lifestyle,” Kunovac said. “She has not just handled it, not just overcome it, but thrived at it.”

“I think I was ready for the next challenge,” Schlecker said. “This is the top level in college sports with tennis, so it’s brilliant for me to be a part of it. Just being around it, you get better.”

But naturally, some of her former teammates on the club team were sad to see her go.

“I was certainly really bummed and so were some of the other girls,” Fram said. “We miss her, but we’re really happy she made varsity. It’s a great opportunity, and she deserves it.”

Though Schlecker is not yet a regular in the Penn lineup as she continues to build confidence on the court the team will be looking to her to make a big impact in the future.

For now, the junior continues to give both her coach and her teammates an emotional lift.

“I’m extremely satisfied and happy,” Kunovac said. “I’m actually proud of how far she has come.”

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