U. K. Connection May Provide Tulsa's Next Great Student-Athlete
Over the past calendar year, we've seen some exceptional performances from TU student athletes. Men's distance runner Chris O'Hare won the 1-mile at the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championships. And he set a new NCAA record in the indoor 1-mile at the Millrose Games in February of this year.
TU appears to have another exceptional student-athlete with All-American potential: Samantha Vickers. She's a junior on the TU women's tennis team and currently ranked #22 nationally by the ITA.
One thing O'Hare and Vickers have in common; they're both from the United Kingdom.
"[I'm from] Lincolnshire. It's east coast, midlands area," Vickers explains through her distinct English accent before her team's match Saturday against No. 16 Notre Dame.
Shockingly, Google maps couldn't determine driving directions from Lincolnshire to Tulsa. But it's a few thousand miles across the Atlantic Ocean. So why make the trip from eastern U. K. to the Midwest of the United States for college and tennis?
"I was excited to try something new, and like, meet new people," said Vickers. "And I was hoping the tennis would be really good here and it is."
But it wasn't like Vickers was an overnight success playing NCAA Division 1 collegiate tennis in the U.S. According to head coach Dean Orford, each season, Samantha has shown substantial improvement; making her the nationally ranked college player she is today.
"[Samantha] has to be one of the best players that's ever played here before," Orford said of his star junior. "We've had All-Americans, don't get me wrong. But she's right up there. We'll see this year when she changes that status."
It's understandable someone like Vickers to have aspirations of possibly winning an NCAA individual title given her top 25 national rank. But according to Vickers, she along with the rest of the Golden Hurricane still have a "team-first" mentality. And Samantha believes this team can reach the NCAA Championships.
"We get to the second round, well, we have the last two years I've been here," said Vickers.
"[This season] we have four new girls. So that's kind of a surprise for the other teams. They're not going to know what's coming, hopefully. But they won't have a clue what we're about. And we'll be able to play some good matches."