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08 January 2020
By SARAH SCULLY
Students preparing to graduate from high school often face difficult decisions about their future, but for Horsham’s Jess McDonald, the answer was simple.
The young tennis star, 18, will jet off to the United States on Friday after securing a full scholarship to play tennis at Blue Mountain College, Mississippi.
McDonald follows in the footsteps of her elder sister Steffi, 19, who took up a scholarship at a university in Kentucky in January 2019 before transferring to Blue Mountain College in August.
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Jess McDonald said the collegiate system offered plenty of opportunities for up-and-coming players.
“It did cross my mind to study here in Australia, but I was looking at my options over there because I could get a full scholarship, and not have to pay for my course,” she said.
“When the Mississippi coach reached out to me and asked if I wanted to head over too, it was a pretty easy decision.
“I’m really lucky, because I’ve only had to pay for flights. It would be a lot more expensive to get a degree here.”
McDonald said she was excited to travel overseas for the first time, even though it would be daunting getting on a plane by herself.
“I’d be a lot more scared if I didn’t have Steffi there,” she said.
“But she loves it over there, so I am excited to check it out.
“I hadn’t really been thinking about it until this week because I’ve been so busy, but it’s starting to sink in now.”
McDonald will not have much downtime after arriving in Mississippi.
“The season starts in early February, so I will pretty much get straight into it,” she said.
“I’ve been pretty busy lately, so I haven’t been doing as much training as I usually do. If I want a hit I usually just hit with the St Michael’s men.
“But over there, I’ll be training every day, either general hitting or in the gym.
“Classes also start in February, so it will be pretty full-on. I haven’t picked a major yet but I’m leaning towards business.”
McDonald, who graduated from Horsham’s St Brigid’s College in 2019, has been an integral part of St Michael’s Horsham Tennis Club’s success in recent Central Wimmera Tennis Association pennant seasons.
Both she and Steffi were playing senior tennis from a young age and have represented the state several times.
“I was about seven or eight when I started playing tennis,” McDonald said.
“Steffi and I were put in heaps of sports – we tried out a lot of different ones. Tennis was the one we stuck with the longest.”
Along with playing for St Michael’s, McDonald has been training and competing in winter competitions in Melbourne.
She said she looked forward to the team nature of collegiate tennis.
“In Australia, tennis is very individual. You don’t get to do a lot of team stuff,” she said.
“In the States, you play as part of a team the whole time and you really only do individual stuff in the off-season.
“It’s a change from what I know here. I’m not sure what to expect, but I’m looking forward to settling in over there and meeting some new people. I’m just planning on going over there and seeing what happens. I’m not sure where I’ll end up.”
McDonald said she also looked forward to sharing the experience with her sister.
“We’re going to be playing together and living together – so I will be with her all the time,” she said.
“We’re sisters, we have our fights, but we’ll see how we go. It should be fine.”
McDonald said she hoped to do some sightseeing in the off-season.
“When you’re playing you get to travel to other states, but I won’t have time to go sightseeing, because I’ll be just there to play,” she said.
“Hopefully I’ll get to do some travelling at some stage. I really want to go to Hawaii or Florida – somewhere warm.”
The entire January 8, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!