Katherine Schofield remembers how it all started, dating back to January 2013.
“I was already training here with the coach, in Isle of Palms. The assistant at the time, Arron Spencer, had come over to the courts to watch the kids play, so I met him and that’s how I learnt about the College of Charleston. Our head coach offered me to come early in January, so I took his offer and I started in January,” she said.
A 2010 state champion with a 52-33 high school singles record to her credit, Schofield adapted on the fly to her new team.
“I didn’t really know anyone that well except Brooke (McAmis), who became soon one of my best friends. But the coach put a lot of pressure on me to perform well because the season started in spring, and I was coming in spring, so I had no choice but to play well.”
That is precisely what she did, notably earning a 15-7 singles record on both of her first two years. Putting the matter generally, Schofield became a far better player on her College of Charleston journey.
“Over the course of these four years, my game has been improving. The coach has helped me with that. I’ve become stronger and I’ve played smarter, this being due to the way college tennis players play, which is really different from the way juniors play. You just kind of learn to grind points out. I think that those factors helped me play well and, you know, win matches.”
Schofield clinched her greatest win last year alongside doubles partner Jenny Falcone. Showing no sign of wavering under the magnitude of what they were achieving, the pair held on to upset Clemson’s number one ranked team in the nation, Beatrice Gumulya and Jessy Rompies, in a one-set contest (6-3). That win remains a special occurrence for her, undoubtedly.
“That’s my best win on paper,” Schofield reckoned. “They were the number one team in the nation, so that was an awesome win for us to have. For that match, we just went out and we had no pressure on us, obviously; they had all the pressure. We just stayed solid; we didn’t beat ourselves, we kept the ball in play, and I don’t know how they usually play, but on that particular match, they were missing some crucial shots. Jenny and I realized the match was winnable in the first couple games as they were missing some pretty easy shots. We just stayed aggressive. I was pushing at the net, trying to close out points, it worked, and we somehow won that match.”
It arguably seems pretty hard to overshadow a win over the number one doubles team in the United States. However, another achievement soars up Schofield’s charts.
“That win is definitely one of the highlights, but winning conference (Editor’s note: in 2012-2013, on her freshman year) definitely beats that,” she confided.
As the Cougars are still in the race for a conference triumph this year, claiming a second title three years after the first one would close the cycle in perfect fashion for Schofield.
“I came in to the College of Charleston with a conference championship; I want to leave with a conference win. That would be the best highlight,” she considered.
Over her four years at the College of Charleston, Schofield has played with plenty of different doubles partners. And although she may have been looking ill-matched with some in the first place, Schofield eventually dovetailed with every of them.
“When I first came here, I played with a girl of France, Irene (Viana), who was a funny character. When I switched to Jenny (Falcone), it was definitely tough at first: our on-court chemistry was not great, and our game styles clashed sometimes, but we went to work it out, and one day it just ‘clicked’. Ever since then, we’ve been playing really well. The same thing kind of happened with Mara (Argyriou). The coach wasn’t sure whether we would work out as a doubles team because in practice we wouldn’t play so well, but after a couple matches it was better. We started as the number two pair and our ones were kind of struggling while we were being consistent in our wins, so we moved up to one and did a really great job overall. So the transition wasn’t too difficult: I’m pretty good with changing up and learning to adapt pretty quickly,” Schofield said.
To describe her game, Schofield refers to Amelie Mauresmo, a two-time Grand Slam champion and Olympic silver medallist from France who was known for her aggressive game.
“My favorite player growing up was Mauresmo: she had an awesome serve-and-volley game and I’ve always wanted to do the same. I really enjoy my net game, so in singles matches I’m looking to close out points at the net. I like to serve and volley, I like to try to push my opponent back – I’m trying not to hang out with the baseline and grind forever.”
Schofield’s inspiration in the tennis world is WTA Tour’s world number one and most iconic figure, Serena Williams.
“You can’t go wrong with Serena,” she explained. “She’s a role model. She just has everything a perfect tennis player has: physicality, game-wise intelligence… And she’s been around for so long.”
When asked about the recent controversies raised on the pay gap between men and women in tennis, Schofield advocates for change.
“I honestly don’t understand why it wouldn’t be equal pay,” she judged. “Even if people actually care more about men than women, it shouldn’t be a factor. It shouldn’t determine who gets paid more.”
After four years of good and loyal service, it is almost time for Schofield to leave Patriots Point’s heavenly tennis courts. Reflecting back on her unique experience as a college athlete, she expressed mixed feelings.
“I am excited but I am sad at the same time, because, you know, this has been my team, my squad for all four years, and now I have to sort of find another team in the work world, so it will definitely be bittersweet, but I’ve done my time here and I’m ready to move on.”
On what is to come in the next several months, Schofield is still undecided.
“I’m looking into the design field, or maybe I will just keep up with my major and stay in the historic preservation field. Will I stay in Charleston? That’s a possibility. I’ll either stay here or go to Los Angeles. We’ll see… It’s just crazy right now.”
It surely would be even crazier if the Cougars go on to win the conference title.