Paige Grice is the latest Kamloops Tennis Centre product to cash in on valuable scholarship dollars.
The 17-year-old NorKam senior secondary student has committed to join the Western Illinois University Leathernecks in time for the 2021-2022 NCAA Division One campaign.
“It’s just going to be amazing for me to be able to continue to play tennis, because I love the sport, at an even higher level than I am right now, while also being able to get my education and get my degree,” said Grice, a math whiz who plans to study physics, but is undecided on a career path.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to meet new people and improve myself as an athlete and really just become more independent. I’m going to be far away from home.”
The academic and athletic scholarship dollars will nearly amount to a full ride at the institution in Macombe, Ill.
Grice had competition for the Leathernecks' scholarship, with head coach Shawn Hyden considering multiple women.
"They decided to choose her," said Kamloops Tennis Centre coach Kelly Hubbard, who has worked with Grice since she was seven. "She’s got a lot of drive and enthusiasm. She's pushed even harder since committing to the school."
Agent Deborah Veitch helped distribute video for Grice, who had other options, but none more appealing than Western Illinois.
Hubbard said the junior standout is being rewarded for dedication on and off the court.
“At about 12 or 13, she started to push hard,” Hubbard said. “Physical work is not easy to do when you’re a teenager. You’d rather go out with friends and do stuff like that. She seemed to be training a lot in the gym. It was like, OK, she’s got really good self-discipline.”
Grice credited Hubbard and all of her playing partners for spurring her development, making special mention of Justin and Thomas Friesen.
Justin, one year older than Grice and two years his brother’s senior, toiled in Kamloops to earn a scholarship at Holy Cross College at Notre Dame, a private school in Indiana, also with the help of Veitch.
“The kids in this city are really athletic,” Hubbard said. “I think if they choose tennis, I can give them the paramaters that would allow them to succeed. We’re offering a comprehensive package that I don’t know a lot of cities are offering.”
Hubbard said his juniors are offered ample court time, which is not always available at clubs on the Coast, and KTC athletes can capitalize on a relationship with David Stride of Stride Sport and Performance.
Grice will join a team loaded with international flavour.
The Leathernecks’ 2020-2021 women’s tennis roster: Agatha Carbonell of Valencia, Spain, Lorena Castellanos of Recife, Brazil, Aina Cortina-Pou of Blanes, Spain, Ericka Dawson of Macombe, Ill., Lucky Kancherla of Edina, Minn., Maria Rybka of Castro-Urdiales, Spain, Nikhita Simhambhatla of Hyderabad, Telangana, India and Maria Vidal of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia.
Grice said her path can help lead the way for the next generation of tennis talent in the Tournament Capital.
“It’s really cool, for men’s and women’s, but especially women’s. There is a lot of opportunity in the United States for scholarships,” Grice said. “It’s awesome for people younger than me to see I have these opportunities and they can also have them.”