AP NEWS

Aney’s to-do list never ending

May 5, 2019

Jessie Aney is a doer.

That’s what’s going to make finishing up her stellar tennis career at the University of North Carolina in the next few weeks just a little bit easier.

For the former Rochester Century star, there is still plenty left to do. That will include switching from tennis shoes to skates next school year.

Yes, the former high school all-state girls hockey player is going to give college hockey a try now that she’ll have exhausted her four years of tennis eligibility. Tennis remains in her future, with Aney prepared to give it a shot at the professional level. But athletes are given a fifth year to play a second collegiate sport, so Aney is going to go for it.

No surprise there for this doer. Aney has accepted an offer to play women’s hockey at Division I University of Connecticut. She’ll leave North Carolina for UConn on Aug. 14.

“I like to experience new things,” said the 2010 Sports Illustrated Sportskid of the Year, recognized then for her duo athletic brilliance in tennis and hockey, as well as her academic and fine arts accomplishments and community service. “This will be a change up for me that I am excited about. I’ll only be there for a year. But I want to make the most out of being a student-athlete.”

If North Carolina women’s tennis coach Brian Kalbas had to pick a player from his team who gets the most of out life, and gives the most back, he’d almost certainly point to Aney.

First off, she’s had a heck of a tennis career with the Tar Heels, who enter this postseason — which starts today — as the No. 1 ranked team in the country.

Aney has the fourth-most wins in North Carolina women’s tennis history. She’s also part of a doubles combination, with Alexa Graham, that’s ranked second in the country and she’s a two-time All-America doubles player. In singles, Aney’s been ranked as high as 18th during her stay at North Carolina and she’s been a perennial Atlantic Coast Conference All-Academic choice.

ON-COURT INTEGRITY

But none of those accomplishments strikes Kalbas as much as the person she is.

Tennis has a reputation for being cut throat at the big-time college level, including players often being dishonest in making their own lines calls during matches.

But in Aney, Kalbas has someone who’s turned that wicked stereotype on its head. It’s Aney’s sporstmanship that most jumps out at the North Carolina coach. It wasn’t so many weeks ago that Aney was writing a University of Georgia player — one who’d just beaten her in a key singles match — a congratulator letter, telling how impressed she was with her game.

That’s just one example of her tennis decorum.

“I’ve had tennis officials come up to me and tell me that Jessie has to start calling (some of her opponent’s) balls out,” Kalbas said. “She is a classy and great representative of our program. She’s an incredible athlete and person. And academically (majoring in philosophy and business), she’s thriving. Jessie just does things so well on and off court.”

Aney certainly covers a lot of ground, and this past summer, did that literally. Aney, never one to limit herself, gave professional tennis a try over the summer and fall, heading out on her own to play satellite tournaments in Europe and Thailand.

Aney bought a Eurail pass and hit 13 different European countries, finding entry-level pro tournaments to play in.

“I wanted to travel and play, to give pro tennis a shot so I’d know what it’d be like,” said Aney, who found other fledgling pro players to train and room with along the way. “It was super fun, but not having a consistent schedule and no coach made it tougher. When I decide to go on a real tennis tour, I’ll likely do it completely differently.”

But that won’t come before playing college hockey next school year, something she prepared for by playing club hockey the past fews years, on a University of North Carolina men’s team.

And that won’t come before she and her women’s tennis team try to live up to their No. 1 ranking in the NCAA tournament. The Tar Heels have won an indoor national championship since Aney has been there, but have never made it past the outdoor quarterfinals.

Aney’s to-do list is always a long one. Right now, coming up big in the national team tournament is at the top of it.