Brother and sister tennis stars head to national championships
October 10, 2013
Jake and Megan Humphreys have a tendency to knock top-ranked tennis players off their perches.
At the NCAA Div. III Midwest Championships, held Sept. 20-29 in St. Peter, Minn., the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater students did just that.
"I didn't feel too much pressure because I had nothing to lose," said Jake, a sophomore. "Many of the guys I was competing against were seniors, so I just gave it my all."
"I knew I had the potential to win matches, but winning the tournament never crossed my mind," said Megan, a freshman.
Competing against 128 of the best college tennis players from across the Midwest, the Humphreys siblings emerged as singles champions.
Jake derailed the No. 4, No. 1 and No. 9 seeds; Megan stormed past the No. 2, No. 4 and No. 3 seeds.
"Both of them are incredible athletes - very similar in playing style and very consistent," said Frank Barnes, head tennis coach. "They can cover the court so quickly that it's nearly impossible to get the ball past them. They're intensely competitive. They're also two of the nicest people around."
They are taking their talents to Fort Myers, Fla., where they are competing in the national championships Oct. 10-13.
"It's a huge opportunity," Jake said. "To represent our school is awesome. I didn't think it would happen this early."
"There's so much pride and spirit when you're a Warhawk. The community support has been great," Megan said. "I feel honored to make it this far."
The Humphreys siblings, from Kenosha, began playing at a young age.
"I started playing tennis first - when I was about seven years old," Megan said. "Next thing you know, Jake picks up a racket and it turns out he was pretty good."
Both excelled at the sport at Tremper High School, with Jake winning the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Div. I tennis doubles championship in 2010.
He visited several campuses during his college search, looking for the right fit. Jake says he felt the welcoming culture of UW-Whitewater right away.
A year later, Megan followed him to campus. "Jake loved it. I knew I wouldn't be 'one in a million' here. It just felt right," she said. "And, of course, there was Frank Barnes."
Coach Barnes, in his 12th year at UW-Whitewater, has built a strong and well-respected tennis program.
More than 700 people ages 12 and up attend the popular Warhawk tennis camps each summer, led by Barnes and talented assistants with years of experience. In NCAA competition, UW-Whitewater is often the only Div. III public university ranked nationally.
"Frank is an awesome coach. You can go to him for anything, whether it's personal, school, or tennis-related - and he'll help you out," said Megan. "He's taught me how to focus and to keep my composure."
"He understands we're here to get a degree and makes sure we stay on top of our studies," Jake said. "We try not to take for granted the amount of support we get from our coaches to succeed in the classroom."
Jake is studying finance; Megan is a biology major and hopes to become a physician assistant.
This weekend's national tournament is the culmination of a very successful fall season. Megan boasts a 16-1 record. Her sole loss came against a Div. I athlete. Jake is 9-0. (The men's team plays most of its season in the spring.)
When it comes to one-on-one tennis games, Megan admits that Jake has the edge over her. But not in every sport.
Their pingpong matches are epic.
"We have an ongoing tournament at our house. We'll play a couple of games and whoever is losing will try to up the matches - best of three, best of five, best of seven," Jake said. "It can get pretty crazy."
As competitive as the siblings can be, Megan, without hesitation, names her brother as someone who inspires her.
"Seeing how he plays on the court and how he acts before and after a match - there's no attitude, just sportsmanship. He's academically successful, too."
The respect is mutual. Jake is quick to offer his sister advice and words of encouragement.
"Sometimes I feel responsible when she loses a match. If I taught her a move that doesn't work out, it's like, ouch." But, he chuckles, "I also like to take credit for her success, and say 'she learned that from me.' "