Sisters cherish time as teammates

While Ashley and Kelsey Jakupcin may never dominate the sport of tennis like Serena and Venus Williams, the sisters certainly are a force to be reckoned with on the Falcon tennis court.

The duo has been playing tennis since age five and competing against each other from the time they were able to hit balls over the net to each other.

Growing up, the two were never forced to play against each other because they were in different age groups playing junior tennis.

It was not until high school that the two officially competed against one another as they battled for the coveted spot of No. 1 singles, with the eldest, Ashley, coming out of the match victorious.

The No. 1 singles showdown was a three-match struggle, as most matches are between the sisters in practice matches. In each match, the two bring new meaning to the term “sibling rivalry.”

“I don’t want to lose to her,” Ashley said.

“I want to beat her every time,” Kelsey said.

The duo wound up at BG after being recruited and given scholarships to play under the experience of head coach Penny Dean.

According to Kelsey, Ashley was able to help her make her college decision having already been through the process, but admits having a sister here at BG was a definite plus to coming here.

The sister relationship, which was described by both as “love-hate,” is one in which both siblings have great respect for one another.

“I want to model the way that she has been toward teammates in the past,” Kelsey said.

Kelsey is thankful for Ashley’s help in writing papers, finding classroom buildings and discovering the good places to eat on campus.

Amidst the busy schedules of two Division-I athletes, the Jakupcins try to find time to hang out on weekends and work on skills back at home over school breaks.

Dean described the sisters as having a “deep understanding of their relationship,” which she attributes to helping them work harder in practices and perform better in matches. “They just have a closeness that allows them to do that,” Dean said.

Dean also went on to explain that in practices when the team has challenges to determine who will play what number singles, neither sister is very excited about playing against each other.

From playing and practicing against one another the two are able to read each other’s next move, and in doing so, can tell one another what they are doing wrong.

The sisters were able to showcase their talents and closeness together during the 2005-2006 season when they competed at No. 2 doubles for a handful of matches.

The two posted a 7-2 record at the second flight of doubles, including a victory over Buffalo, a top contender in the Mid-American Conference, and one of the most memorable experiences for the pair in playing together.

But don’t let the sisters’ closeness on and off the court be confused with their desire to be part of the team as a whole.

“We do not play for each other, we play for the team,” the two agreed.

Ashley, a co-captain of the team is playing her final season as a Falcon.

“Yeah, I’ll miss her when she is gone,” Kelsey said.

The next opportunity to catch the sisters in tennis action will be this coming Friday, Feb. 9, when the Falcons take on Duquesne University at 6 p.m.