The Valparaiso University women’s tennis team enjoyed its most successful fall season on record, and the good news just keeps coming for a program on the rise.
The Crusaders have added another quality player to the fold, as 2018-19 freshman Olivia Paradise inked her National Letter of Intent on Wednesday. A native of Mahtomedi, Minn. and current senior at Mahtomedi High School, Paradise is expected to help Valpo take another step forward as it continues its recent progression.
“Since tennis has smaller teams than other sports, we are able to pick and choose people who fit our team dynamic,” head coach Tammy Cecchini said. “Olivia fits what we want on our team. Academics come first, and she’s a great student. She’s athletic, has great strokes and a strong foundation. She has tremendous potential and I know in her four years at Valpo, she’s going to get better and better.”
Paradise, a three-star recruit, joins a team that took a considerable leap forward during the fall season, posting a combined 32-30 singles record. That gave the program more total singles wins than it had in any one full season (fall and spring combined) from 2007-2014. But what attracted Paradise to Valpo went beyond the tennis courts.
“The players and coaches care about character more than anything, and that’s a key part of it for me,” Paradise said. “I could tell these girls were all very close. They were kind-hearted and sweet, and Tammy is by far the nicest coach I’ve talked to.”
Paradise describes herself as an aggressive player whose strengths include attacking, doubles and serving. She has known Valpo sophomore Jordan Kopfer (Eagan, Minn. / Eastview) since she was 9 years old, and the two have frequently played with and against one another.
“What I really like about Olivia is that we made her the offer and she accepted it right then and there,” Cecchini said. “She knew it was a perfect fit. We were both screaming and excited. It’s great when you have someone who is enthusiastic about Valpo. When she came to visit, you could sense it was meant to be – we’re so happy and so lucky to have Olivia join our program.”
During her junior season, Paradise helped Mahtomedi to a state championship, including a win over Edina, which had won 19 consecutive state titles. Paradise started playing for the Zephyrs in seventh grade, and helped the team progress from not qualifying for state her first season to winning a state title during her junior campaign.
Away from tennis, Paradise enjoys assisting special education students. She is undecided upon her major at Valpo, but has interest in journalism/communications.
The moment of signing her NLI was a special one for Paradise, who will bring a 6-foot-2 frame, athleticism and a powerful serve to Valpo.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” she said. “Being verbally committed is awesome because you know the coach is definitely invested in you, but signing takes it to a whole new level. It’s sinking in that I’m now part of the team. I can’t wait for next fall.”