Emily Sampsel's family never was the type to sit around the house.

Emily Sampsel's family never was the type to sit around the house.

Instead, the Sampsels would venture outside and participate in some sort of athletic endeavor. For most of her youth, tennis was a game Emily played in family doubles tournaments or with her grandfather, Jim Sampsel.

Her love for sports and being active carried into high school. At Marysville High School, Sampsel played basketball in the winter and softball in the spring and summer. Yet when it came to the fall season, tennis was not her first choice.

"Tennis was really just something fun I did with my grandpa," she said. "He's really into tennis, but in high school I wanted to play soccer, not tennis. I played tennis because it was something I did to make my grandpa happy."

On weekends, Sampsel, a senior on the women's tennis team at Ohio Dominican, still takes time out in her busy schedule of work, student-teaching, tennis and school to continue her matches with her 87-year-old grandfather.

When playing against competitors her own age, Sampsel has developed into a key member of the Ohio Dominican women's tennis team. Last season, the Panthers finished 13-5 overall and first at 7-0 in the American Mideast Conference for the program's fourth league title in five years. Ohio Dominican won the NAIA Region IX Championships and earned its first appearance in the NAIA Division II national tournament, where the Panthers lost in the first round to Embry Riddle from Daytona Beach, Fla., 9-0.

"Nobody expected us to do anything in the tournament," Sampsel said. "We just kept winning. It was a neat experience to go to (the national tournament). You think you're good because you just won the (Region IX) tournament, but then you're playing against nationally ranked players. It's a reality-check and a very humbling experience."

Sampsel graduated from Marysville in 2005. Playing tennis at the college level was not foremost in her mind. She reverted back to her feelings on tennis. It was a game she played for fun, but didn't take too seriously. She wanted to play softball.

"I looked at Marietta and Muskingum for softball," Sampsel said. "I thought I was going to play softball in college."

But she liked what Ohio Dominican offered academically. Sampsel's meeting with the softball coach did not go well. Finally, she talked to the women's tennis coach, Mike Bonnell.

"We got along really well," Sampsel said. "He had the same type of work philosophy I did. The way he looked at it, he wanted us to have a true college experience, not just have our college experience be our sport. I like that idea."

Through three seasons at Ohio Dominican, Sampsel's record in singles play is 41-13 and in doubles it's 45-13. Next season, she has an opportunity to play first singles and first doubles.

"She is one of the best pure athletes I've coached," said Ryan Beigle, who took over as Ohio Dominican's women's tennis coach in 2006. "She's utilized her raw athletic ability on the tennis court. That's what separates her. In the last couple of years, she's developed a maturity on the court in terms of understanding how to win points and what it takes to continue to progress."

When Sampsel arrived at Ohio Dominican, she was a strong hitter, but that was the extent of her tennis skills. Now, she is able mix her power game with some finesse.

"In high school, I thought I just had to kill the ball to win a match," she said. "Now I have more strategy. I hit a lot of different type of balls as most of my shots are slice shots or have high topspin."

Sampsel put her game to the ultimate test last fall. Majoring in middle school education, she was required to student-teach her junior year. The school day ended at ended at 3:30 p.m. and her team practiced from 2-4 p.m.

"I had to practice with the guys team for the most part," Sampsel said. "They went from 4-6 p.m. I really liked it. Some of the guys would think since they're playing against a girl they would whoop up on me. Then, you take them a little bit."

She managed to beat a few of the men's players.

"They didn't think it was too funny."

Sampsel was teamed with Kristen Gillman at first doubles and they earned their second consecutive all-AMC selection for finishing league play without a loss.

Gillman, who also was all-AMC for the fourth consecutive season at first singles, has graduated.

"On paper, (Sampsel is) the successor to the No. 1 spot," Beigle said. "We've had a very deep team this past year and the role of the four seniors next season is to keep that streak alive.

"Emily is an intense competitor and she has a drive when that match starts that's second to none. She has that desire to win points and do everything necessary to win the point. That's what's made her consistent and solid the last three years."