Senior Casey Johnson fell in the round of 32 in the NCAA Division III Women’s Tennis Individual Championship, which took place on May 21- 23.
The tournament was held at the Linder Family Tennis Center at Ohio Northern University and drew 32 student-athletes from across the nation.
This was Johnson’s third consecutive trip to the tournament, where she represented the ASC as the only women’s player selected from the conference for the singles draw.
Although she has gone far in her final days at UTD, the Plano native and four-time high school state champion had a slow start to her collegiate tennis career.
Johnson battled injuries as a freshman at Murray State University, a Division 1 school, only playing in three games for the Racers.
“I tore a ligament in each of my wrists at the same time,” she said.
With her collegiate tennis career in doubt and doctors uncertain she would ever play again, it took two years of rehabilitation to recover.
“I can’t even believe I am still playing tennis because the doctors said I wouldn’t be able to play competitively, but here I am,” Johnson said.
Johnson transferred to UTD as a sophomore and she developed as a player, earning first team All-ASC honors her first year as a Comet. Led by Johnson that season, UTD won the ASC title in 2013 and was offered a place in the NCAA Division III Team Championship.
Unfortunately for Johnson, she picked up an injury at the end of the season that would lead to a withdrawal from the national championship.
Rebounding from the injury, Johnson’s junior season was highlighted with a perfect 11-0 record in singles play, earning her First Team All-ASC honors.
She made it back to the Division III Women’s Tennis Championships as a junior, but fell in the round of 32 in a straight-set loss to Brandeis’ Carley Cooke.
Head Men’s and Women’s Tennis coach Bryan Whitt said he is impressed with how Johnson has grown throughout her career with the Comets.
“Casey handles pressure very well; people expect her to win when she goes out there on the court and she lives up to that,” Whitt said.
Transitioning from a Division I program, there was added pressure on Casey to be the best every time she played.
Johnson, who finished this season with a 7-1 record despite a shortened schedule, headed into this year’s tournament with high expectations placed upon her.
Whitt said he believed Johnson had a chance to make a deep run.
“She was definitely capable of advancing throughout the tournament,” he said. “The result was unfortunate because she played a strong match.”
This year’s draw saw Johnson matched up against Megan Tang from The University of Chicago.
The tournament was familiar territory for Tang, a three-time All-American who was making her third consecutive appearance in the competition.
“She was a great player, UOC consistently has a top program with exceptional athletes,” Whitt said.
Despite her efforts, Johnson fell in two sets, going 6-2 and 6-4.
“We had a really close match and a lot of long sets but she seemed to (have) won all of the important points,” Johnson said. “Either one of us could (have)won the match.””
Whitt witnessed Johnson’s frustration of her second consecutive first round exit.
“She was discouraged to lose, but she played exceptional and that definitely helps alleviate some of that pain,” Whitt said.
Despite her loss, Johnson finished with one of the best career records in program history. Across her three seasons with the Comets, Johnson is 26-3 in singles play and is the Comets’ all-time leader in singles victories.
Even though she has played her last match for UTD, Johnson plans to contribute to the tennis program to give guidance to younger players. She said that she wants to instill the wisdom she has learned over the years to the next generation of players.
“If you put in the work, the results will come,” Johnson said. “But make sure you have fun along the way.”