Carmel grad cherishing her Cinderella tennis story

 
 
Posted6/3/2017 1:00 AM
hello
  • University of Michigan's Brienne Minor celebrates her victory over Florida's Belinda Woolcock in the final match of the NCAA women's tennis championship Monday, May, 29, 2017, in Athens, Ga.

    University of Michigan's Brienne Minor celebrates her victory over Florida's Belinda Woolcock in the final match of the NCAA women's tennis championship Monday, May, 29, 2017, in Athens, Ga.

  • Michigan sophomore tennis player Brienne Minor, a Mundelein native, displays the NCAA Championship trophy she earned in women's singles. Minor was unranked entering the tournament.

    Michigan sophomore tennis player Brienne Minor, a Mundelein native, displays the NCAA Championship trophy she earned in women's singles. Minor was unranked entering the tournament. Photo courtesy of Minor family

  • Michigan's Brienne Minor returns to Florida's Belinda Woolcock in the final match of the NCAA women's tennis championship Monday, May, 29, 2017 in Athens, Ga. Minor defeated Woolcock.

    Michigan's Brienne Minor returns to Florida's Belinda Woolcock in the final match of the NCAA women's tennis championship Monday, May, 29, 2017 in Athens, Ga. Minor defeated Woolcock.

  • Michigan's Brienne Minor returns to Florida's Belinda Woolcock in the final match of the NCAA women's tennis championship Monday, May, 29, 2017 in Athens, Ga. Minor defeated Woolcock.

    Michigan's Brienne Minor returns to Florida's Belinda Woolcock in the final match of the NCAA women's tennis championship Monday, May, 29, 2017 in Athens, Ga. Minor defeated Woolcock.

It's not March, and the Big Dance is long over.

But Brienne Minor is just as compelling as a No. 16 seed in the NCAA basketball tournament that unapologetically knocks out a No. 1 seed.

She is Cinderella with a sparkly glass slipper, crashing the biggest party of the season.

Minor, a 2015 graduate from Carmel High School in Mundelein and the last of a family tennis dynasty that includes two older sisters who played in college (Kristina at Illinois and Jasmine at Georgia Tech), was the No. 2 singles player this spring for Michigan's tennis team. A sophomore, she was unranked nationally all season.

Last weekend, she won the NCAA Division I singles title.

Yep, won it. The whole darn thing. As an unranked player, beating top 25 players left and right.

And now, she's the best female college tennis player in the country. To add a cherry to that sundae, she's also the first black female to win the singles title. Ever.

She's also the first national tennis champ at Michigan.

Paging Cinderella, paging Cinderella. Your glass slipper is looking extra sparkly right now.

"It wasn't until the championship match that I thought, 'Oh my gosh, I actually could win this thing," said Minor, who won six championship matches at the University of Georgia over six days to win the title. "I had struggled during the (regular) season. And all of a sudden, I was in the finals of the NCAA tournament. I mean, it was crazy. It was like, 'What is happening right now?' "

Minor says she used her strong forehand and an uber-relaxed mindset to string win after win together.

Being so relaxed was out of character for Minor, who won a state championship at Carmel as a senior with a 34-0 record and had competed on the juniors circuit since age 7.

"Most of the time, I'm not relaxed," Minor said with a laugh. "Nerves really get to me sometimes, especially when I'm playing for the team. My teammates and my coaches, they just mean so much to me. I don't ever want to let the team down.

"But (the tournament) was just me. So however I do, it's just on me," she said. "I just went out and played, just loose and relaxed. It was easier to have fun."

Along the way, Minor got some sweet victories: a win over the player who eliminated her from the first round of NCAA singles last year, a win over a player she often faced but rarely beat over years of juniors competitions, and the player who had earlier eliminated the top seed in the field.

"I got some really good wins against some really good players, some highly ranked players," Minor said. "It was all so exciting. I had some really good support from my coaches and teammates and my entire family was there."

Tennis certainly has been a family affair for the Minor family, starting with Brienne's maternal grandfather. Both of her parents (Kevin and Michelle) played tennis as well.

Kristina, the oldest Minor sister at age 27, started playing in local parks, and Jasmine, 23, followed suit, winning a state championship at Carmel. Then, like clockwork, came Brienne, who likes to go by Bri.

"We all just love (tennis)," Brienne, 19, said of the sisters. "I just remember being so intrigued by it when I watched my sisters play. We would talk about being like the (Venus and Serena) Williams sisters. We watched them on TV and we saw them play in an exhibition in Chicago.

"I really liked the game because of them. I like playing. But I also like everything else about tennis: traveling for the tournaments and meeting new people. And my favorite thing ever is being on a team. I love being a part of a tennis team."

Minor, who is on a full ride at Michigan, has two more years with her teammates in Ann Arbor. So what does she do for an encore?

"I'm not sure," laughed Minor, still in a bit of a "pinch me" state. "When I was at Carmel I just thought about how cool it was going to be to play tennis in college. I would have never thought something like this would happen.

"I think my goal for the next two years is all about the team and my teammates. I really want to do my best for them."

And after that? Any aspirations to follow in the footsteps of Venus and Serena Williams?

"Oh, I would love to go pro," said Minor, who would need to be ranked in the top 75 in the world to make a suitable living at tennis. "I absolutely want to try to get there.

"But right now, I just want to enjoy this."

Well then, carry on Cinderella. Carry on.

pbabcock@dailyherald.com

Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

  • This article filed under:
  • Sports
Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.