Senior applied exercise science major Emily Harris is one of the top tennis players in the western region of the NCAA. Holding her position as No. 1 in Azusa Pacific women’s singles for her second consecutive year, Harris has successfully maintained her self-motivation and hardworking stance on the courts.
Harris became intrigued with the game at age 4 after watching her older sister during a tennis lesson. A year later, Harris began playing tennis herself. The Arizona native was named her high school’s Most Valuable Player and graduated as the state runner-up in singles. Following the steps of her older sister, Harris also played badminton in high school and won the state championship.
“[Badminton] looked very fun, so I decided it to play and it was a nice mixup from tennis,” Harris said. “It helped my tennis game — it helped with my reflexes and my touch game.”
Harris started playing on APU’s tennis team her freshman year and played with a senior in doubles. Now in her senior year, Harris is serving her second consecutive year as captain of the team.
Head coach Mark Bohren said Harris has very few weaknesses and a lot of inner confidence, which shows in her results.
“Leadership — that’s her big asset to the team. She’s an amazing player, but even a better leader,” Bohren said.
Teammate and MBA graduate student Kim Koetterheinrich said Harris does a good job communicating with the team and the coaches. Koetterheinrich also said the team captain performs well on the court during her matches.
“She has really long rallies, so it’s really fun to actually watch,” Koetterheinrich said. “You get so into the game. … She’s not going to give up, and you know you can rely on her and that she’s going to keep fighting.”
Harris also serves as president of APU’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee. The SAAC has an executive board composed of a president, vice president, community engagement officer and an administrator. The SAAC also has subcommittees and one student representative from each sports team on campus. The main goal of the committee is to be the student athletes’ voice to the Athletics Department in topics that range from proposed NCAA legislation to sports uniforms and apparel.
As president, Harris has set goals for the past year such as raising $3,000 for the Make-a-Wish foundation and getting student athletes involved in supporting the student body as a whole. She encourages them to attend school events like plays or choir performances.
“I think one thing that I’ve been shown through this committee, especially this past year, is the amazing student athletes that we have at this school,” Harris said. “It’s hard being a student and an athlete, yet we have one representative from each team willing to even spend more time for the student athlete well-being in the school.”
After graduating in May, Harris plans to take a year off and play in badminton tournaments, with hopes to eventually join the U.S. national badminton team. In the meantime, Harris is focusing on the team’s goals as they are four matches deep into the season with a 4-0 record.
“Coach Bohren says, ‘We want to be the best that we can be at the end of the season,'” Harris said. “The goal is to go to Nationals, but that starts [with] practice day one — continuing working hard every single day.”
Reminiscing on her past three years, Harris found a unique camaraderie between both the men’s and women’s teams in the usually individualistic sport of tennis.
“Really, my motivation is just the team, and seeing them working hard motivates me to work hard so that I can be the best that I can be in every match,” she said.