Elgin Community College tennis player June Lynch has won several titles in singles and doubles, led the team to a spot at nationals, earned the sportsmanship award from the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference and was named her team's MVP.
Not too shabby for a player who picked up a racket and started playing tennis three years ago when she was 42 years old.
Now Lynch, 45, is the No. 1 player on ECC's women's tennis team and one of the top players on the community college scene.
"A friend told me how fantastic tennis is," said Lynch, of Crystal Lake, who is studying to be a pastry chef at ECC. "It was always attractive to me, but there were not so many opportunities to play in China."
Lynch moved to the United States in 2000 from her hometown of Chenyang, the capital and largest city of the Liaoning province in northeast China. Chenyang is about an hour north of Beijing.
Unlike the United States where there is seemingly a tennis court in every neighborhood park, facilities were few and far between in China, Lynch said.
"There are more opportunities to play different sports here," Lynch said. "In China, there were no outdoor courts, only in the government area. Courts were for professionals or it was expensive."
Now Lynch plays a few times per week -- sometimes twice per day -- at Center Court Athletic Club in Hanover Park and other suburban clubs and practices twice per week with the ECC team.
"It keeps you fit and active," she said.
Clark Hallpike, the head men's and women's tennis coach at ECC for the past 26 years, said while Lynch is working on the proper technique of basic strokes, it is her intensity that has accounted for her improvement.
Hallpike added that while Lynch does not have the powerful strokes of some of her younger opponents, her weapon is patience. Lynch, who is often mistaken for a coach or a parent at matches, dropped just one match this season against the number one player in the region.
"She is a defensive player," Hallpike said. "Unlike some of the younger players, June doesn't hit the ball hard, but she keeps the ball in play."
Teammate Rose Muenzenmay, 32, of Elgin, described Lynch as a natural.
"June absolutely has some natural-born talent as far as the sport," said Muenzenmay, who has been playing since she was 7. "Picking it up that quickly is impressive."
In addition, Muenzenmay said Lynch keeps morale high on the team and entertains everyone on road trips by teaching them Chinese phrases.
"She is just goofy," Muenzenmay said. "When we travel to meets, some are more than an hour away. June will teach us all some Chinese. We yell encouragements to each other in Chinese, and other teams are like, 'What the heck?' She is just really a great asset to the team."