Linfield Wildcats

Wildcat Spotlight

April 19, 2012
Game, Set, Match for Powerhouse Senior

If only we could all be as athletic as Linfield’s No. 1 women’s tennis player. Sports just seem to come naturally to Abby Olbrich.

“She is easily one of the most athletic girls I have ever coached,” says Linfield women’s tennis coach Amy Dames Smith. “She’s just incredibly talented, but very humble, and a really hard worker.

“Abby basically embodies all of the characteristics you want in an athlete.”

Since the senior from Vancouver, Wash., has been playing sports her whole life, she’s had plenty of practice.

“I started playing soccer when I was five or six,” Olbrich remembers. “I suppose that’s about as young as you can.”

An outstanding athlete, Olbrich has spent her life playing a wide variety of sports. She was a three-sport athlete at Skyview High School, earning 10 letters for her efforts in soccer, tennis and basketball.

“She’s the exception for high level-tennis players in that she hasn’t spent her whole life out on the court,” says Dames Smith. “I always tell girls that they have to put the time in and work hard, and Abby does, but her natural athletic ability also helps a lot.”

Olbrich remembers playing around on the courts with her dad and older brother when she was a young girl, but certainly didn’t specialize in the sport she’s playing now.

“I took some private lessons in seventh and eighth grade, but I was also playing basketball and soccer at the time. I didn’t really pick up tennis again until my junior and senior years of high school.”

Echoing her diverse childhood and high school experiences, Olbrich has had considerably more than a shining tennis career at Linfield.

“I played basketball last year because I missed it from high school. This year, I’m trying to play all of the intramural sports and win as many t-shirts as possible,” she says with a smile. “I have two so far.”

Olbrich is also a member of the Alpha Phi sorority on campus, thanks to her close friendship with recent tennis graduate Sarah Click. “We’ve grown up together, and she’s someone I really look up to.”

In fact, their friendship is part of the reason she’s here. “I heard about Linfield when I came down one time to watch Sarah play in a match,” Olbrich remembers. “I met with the coach and just decided (Linfield) was it.”

Dames Smith recalls meeting her star player for the first time while Olbrich was still in high school as she attended a summer tennis camp at Linfield before her junior year at Skyview. Dames Smith says that Olbrich was still a developing player at that point, but had improved dramatically by the time she joined the Linfield squad as a freshman.

“In terms of playing ability, the other girls on the team have always looked up to Abby. As a senior, she has really stepped into a leadership role.” This year, according to Dames Smith, Olbrich is an especially strong role model who leads “her team” through example.

“She really sets the tone for work ethic and attitude. She’s incredibly consistent about getting up for big matches and bringing intensity. What I’ll miss is watching her flip that switch.”

Olbrich says that a lot goes into her pre-match rituals. “I always have to have my game-day braid, use the same hair-ties for the whole season, and eat the same things on every game day. I’m really superstitious,” she laughs.

Whatever it is – hard work, pure talent, or Lady Luck – things has definitely paid off for Olbrich. The Wildcat women are undefeated in Northwest Conference play this spring and are playing host to the NWC championship tournament this weekend. Olbrich, who is 10-5 overall and 9-2 in the NWC at the No. 1 singles spot and 11-5 (11-1 in conference matches) at the top doubles position, is especially eager for a third go-around against second-seeded Whitman.

Both player and coach have high hopes for the postseason. Olbrich says that some of her favorite memories include playing at the NCAA Division III Championship the past two years, an experience she would love to repeat.

“I love the competition. I’m just really competitive,” Olbrich says. “Before every match, Coach always says, ‘Play hard’ or ‘Fight hard,’ but it’s already kind of in my head whenever I do something athletic.”

Olbrich’s four years as a Wildcat have certainly been successful. Though she graduates with a finance degree in May, her sports career won’t end then.

“My long-term plan is to work at Nike,” she says. “And I’d like to keep playing after college, maybe in some USTA leagues or in mixed doubles tournaments with my brother.”

Rest assured that no matter what post-graduate life serves up, Olbrich’s competitive streak will continue to propel her to greatness.   

- Lexy Chapman '15

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