This season the Irish bring a large group of fresh faces to their lineup, as freshmen make up half of the eight-woman team. Among them is freshman and Mishawaka native JoHanna Manningham, who began her career at age 10 and has not put down the racket since.
“I grew to love the sport because it was a fun pastime yet it also provided a competitive outlet as well,” Manningham said.
Throughout her high school career at Penn, she served as a role model both on and off the court, taking AP courses, holding a GPA over 4.0 and holding the position of No. 1 singles player at her high school since her freshman year. She remembers the highlight of her career there as her state run sophomore year when she made it to quarterfinals.
“That was probably my most memorable moment,” she said.
She hoped to attend U. Notre Dame for years, but was unsure if her game was up to par with the University’s competitive team.
“Playing in college was always on the table; I never thought about not playing,” Manningham said. “I was looking at Navy, Toledo, IPFW and Wheaton College, but I chose ND because it provided the best educational opportunities. I knew if I came here I would be part of a ‘family’ after I graduated.”
Now that her dream has come true, she’s ready to run with it. Manningham’s first test will come this weekend at Notre Dame’s Eck Classic, the first meet of the fall season.
“This tournament will be different because in high school there was a difference in the level of play between area schools. Here everyone will be good,” she said.
But Manningham does not plan to let the new level of competition bring her down.
“I plan to bride the gap by stepping up to the plate and not having the fear of losing, only the desire to win,” she said.
Looking to coaches and fellow teammates is made easy with such a small, close-knit team who provide good resources in the early stages of the season.
“We all get along so well and it made the transition into college very easy. I wouldn’t ask for it to be any other way,” Manningham said.