In the past, Jessica Easdale didn't believe in fate.
But after an unusual series of events led to her winning the girls tennis Division I state title in doubles and accepting a scholarship from Bowling Green, the Dublin Jerome High School senior has been converted into a believer.
Easdale committed to Bowling Green on April 10 and signed a letter of intent the next day.
"I wasn't even considering playing Division I college tennis before winning a state championship my senior year, and I never considered going to Bowling Green before talking to their coach on (April 7)," Easdale said. "I don't know if this is luck or fate, but I think it's a little bit of both."
Easdale grabbed the attention of recruiters when she and freshman Kathryn Farrar defeated defeat Dayton Chaminade-Julienne's Nicci Dresden and Katie Pleiman 7-5, 6-2 in the state final last fall.
Farrar originally planned to play doubles with her sister, senior Caroline Farrar, and Easdale was going to play singles. But Caroline, who teamed with her older sister, Elizabeth, to win the Division II state title in doubles in 2004, broke her right thumb during the regular season.
"You don't want to say that Jessica was lucky to get that opportunity because it was a terrible thing for Caroline, and everyone, including Jessica, felt bad for her," said Brian Heil, who has instructed Easdale at Elysium Tennis Club the past four years. "But Jessica stepped to the plate and did a great job of taking advantage of the opportunity. Jessica got her name out there by earning a top-70 (USTA) ranking, but after she won the state doubles title, she certainly got a lot more phone calls from college coaches."
Nevertheless, Easdale was planning on accepting an academic scholarship and playing Division III tennis at Dennison or DePauw before her mother, Dori, made a call to Western Michigan coach Betsy Kuhle in early April.
Kuhle, who coached Easdale at a USTA tournament in July 2006, suggested that Easdale contact Bowling Green coach Penny Dean, who still had a scholarship available. After speaking with Dean on April 7, Easdale took an official visit two days later and was offered a scholarship.
"I was planning on playing at Dennison or DePauw, but those schools were too expensive," Easdale said. "Even with an academic scholarship, both of those schools would have cost more than $25,000 per year.
"I had heard horror stories about how Division I teams practice five times a day and are more like being in the military than playing for fun, so I was leaning toward playing for a Division III team. But I really like the coach at Bowling Green and I'm already friends with one of the girls there -- Kelsey Jakupcin -- so I feel comfortable with my decision."
Jakupcin, a junior, is a Watterson graduate.
Bowling Green lost to Western Michigan 5-2 last Saturday to drop to 15-4 overall in dual and 4-4 in the Mid-American Conference. In 18 seasons at Bowling Green, Dean has a 199-181 record.
"I'm going to play a lot of tennis over the summer to try to earn a top-six singles position," said Easdale, who has a 4.03 GPA. "I want to go to medical school. I'm interested in becoming a doctor because I've had a lot of injuries over the years and my doctors and physical therapists have done a lot to help me keep playing."
Easdale has come a long way in a relatively short time. After playing first doubles as a freshman and sophomore, she played third singles as a junior.
After two-time defending Division I state champion Kate Turvy transferred to Coffman last summer, Easdale moved up to play first singles as a senior.
"It's hard to wrap my head around everything that's happened," Easdale said. "I never wanted Caroline to get hurt because it was a terrible situation, but that's what led to me playing doubles instead of singles in the state tournament. I know I wouldn't have won the state singles title, but we did win doubles and that's what's led to me going to school for free. When I visited Bowling Green, I noticed that my racquet is orange and black, which matches their school colors perfectly. This must be fate."