After four years of early morning workouts, late night practices and seemingly endless travel for meets, senior Junmoke James will be graduating as Lehigh women’s tennis’s only senior, leaving a lasting mark on the program.
Lehigh women’s tennis celebrated James as she competed in her last home match, a 7-0 sweep against Binghamton on April 16.
Though she may be leaving Lehigh, James says the memories and friendships she has made here will last forever.
“What I’m gonna miss most about the Lehigh women’s tennis team is just getting to hit and compete with other girls who are just as motivated as me everyday,” James said. “I’m really grateful to the friends I’ve made on the tennis team.”
Coach Olivia Leavitt said because the team only has eight players and Jones is the lone senior, she has been a role model to her younger teammates.
Having spent four years as part of the program, Leavitt said James helps others by sharing her experiences and helping them to adapt to the collegiate game.
“She views both the team and life in general with open arms,” Leavitt said. “She has been very welcoming to the newer people on the team and also myself as a new coach.”
Leavitt said she started coaching the team eight months ago and James has helped her transition.
Junior teammate Anushka Dania met James in high school while at a United States Tennis Association junior tournament in Georgia. When Dania committed to Lehigh and looked over the team roster, she recognized James.
When Dania came to visit Lehigh as a senior in high school, she stayed with James, and the two instantly formed a bond. Dania said she felt intimidated by balancing tennis and academics when she arrived at Lehigh, and James helped her get used to it.
“James really took me under her wing and kind of showed me the ropes,” Dania said. “It instantly felt really comfortable hanging out and interacting with her, and she made my transition into freshman year a lot smoother and easier because she was always there to lean on.”
Now a junior, Dania said she’s sad to see James leave but knows her impact will remain. Dania said the team will especially miss James’ “infectious energy.”
Leavitt said James brings a warm energy to the team with her jokes but also knows when to hone in on game day and compete.
“Jimmy is a very funny person. She makes everyone laugh, so I think her presence is definitely going to be missed,” Leavitt said. “She’s also a fierce competitor. When she is on the court, she has a very aggressive game style, and I think that is something that the girls look up to.”
Her teammates, friends and coaches call James by her nickname: Jimmy. Her first name is Nigerian and was given to her by her grandmother.
Every player on the team has a nickname so their teammates can easily cheer each other on. James said she instantly knew what hers would be, as her grandmother said many people with James’ name use the nickname Jimmy.
Though being a student-athlete can be time consuming and exhausting, James said she still gets excited to step on the court after a long day.
“Being on the tennis team has kept me really busy throughout my four years, and there’s always something to look forward to,” James said. “It’s cool knowing if I have a bad day at class or something, I can go and forget about it on the tennis court.”
James, who hails from Marietta, Georgia, plans to work at Deloitte after graduation. While she will no longer be a Division I athlete, but she said she plans to continue playing tennis whether it be recreationally or in a competitive league.
Without the time constraints of being a student-athlete, James said she is excited to see what hobbies she can take up in her newfound free time. She said there were some Lehigh clubs she wanted to get involved with but did not have the time for.
Still, James said she would not change a thing about her time at Lehigh.
“(I would’ve told myself to) just relax and enjoy the ride,” James said. “There are gonna be ups and downs, but you’ll come out of this with great lifelong friends and the satisfaction of knowing you did that.”
Though her time as a student-athlete comes to an end, James’ legacy and impact on the women’s tennis program will live on as she continues to inspire other athletes.
Dania said James graduating leaves the team without one of its more prominent role models.
“Jimmy’s a really competitive player,” Dania said. “She’s done a lot for the program, and I think everyone will really miss her leadership and mentorship.”