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March 26, 2008

Women’s tennis is without a doubt one of the most consistent and successful programs at the University of South Carolina. It is a program that is producing great talent on the courts and even greater individuals off of them.

One of those people is junior Gira Schofield, who is the top player for the University. She is not only a top tennis player but also a great individual who exemplifies excellence in all that she does.

When deciding where to go to school, Schofield decided that academics and being close to home were the most important things to her. So, when it came down to it, the University of South Carolina was her choice for those very reasons.

Schofield, the No. 1 singles player, has shown great skill on the court since her arrival at USC. During her freshman season, Schofield was named second-team All-SEC, SEC Co-Freshman of the Year and ITA Southeast Region Rookie of the Year. Schofield says that winning the freshman and rookie of the year awards would have to be the crowning achievements in her tennis career thus far.

“I just really appreciated the honor that the SEC and region gave me,” Schofield said. “When you work so hard to achieve your goals, and someone sees that as well, it is just a great feeling.”

Schofield would continue her outstanding play into her sophomore campaign, earning first-team All-SEC honors, making her only the second Gamecock in school history to achieve the status.

With all that success, it has not gone to her head. Schofield is grounded, and it comes from her family. She says that her mother, father and brothers are what have kept her down to earth and motivated to always do her best.

But maybe she is the way she is because her favorite tennis player was the same way. Steffi Graf played the game not too emotional, always in control and never cocky. Growing up, Schofield looked up to Graf because of her demeanor and because she was so well-rounded.

Watching Schofield on the tennis court, one will see that she always battles, no matter what the score may be. She is always composed and never gets upset when things do not go her way.

When things are not going as she would like, Schofield has counted on the fans to help her out. Schofield says her best moment being a Gamecock came last season in a match against the Kentucky Wildcats.

“Last year against Kentucky, we had a great crowd, and they gave us a lot of support. We were down early in the match, and the fans really pulled us through to help give us a win. It was just really intense, and we wanted to give back to the fans that were cheering for us like crazy. It was just a great day, and a moment I will not forget.”

While tennis is a very important thing to Schofield, she is also just a regular student. She enjoys shopping, hanging out with her friends and from time to time, she enjoys reading, but watching movies is something she absolutely loves. Schofield is also majoring in exercise science and would love to do something in the field some day.

“I would like to be a personal trainer and stay in tennis,” Schofield said. “I just really want to continue to work with athletes who have a passion for wanting to go pro.”

While she is still going to try to pursue a career in professional tennis, it will not hold her back if it does not work out. What is obvious is that she loves the sport of tennis, and her passion to want to continue being involved with it in the future is what drives her.

One can see that passion when she plays because she is always battling and never gives up. Even if she is down early in a match, she seems to always find a way to fight back and oftentimes get a win. It is something that endears her and will continue to serve her well, no matter the path life takes her.

One can see that with Schofield, wherever she goes, she will be successful, and that is something we all can cheer about.