By Will Vandervort
CLEMSON — It’s only fitting Clemson has pulled some of its best athletes from France.
Thomas Green Clemson, the founder and the namesake of Clemson University, studied in Paris, France from 1826-1829 and with his knowledge of both French and German cultures, he served as U.S. charge d’affaires to Belgium from 1844-1851.
More than 160 years later, Clemson’s relationship with France and its surrounding countries continues to prosper, and in a lot of those cases it has happened on the tennis courts at the Hoke Sloan Tennis Center.
Since 2000, when Laurence Jayet won 72 singles matches and 81 doubles matches in her four year career from 2000-‘03, the Clemson women’s
tennis program has had a French player in the program.
“We have had tremendous talent coming out of France,” Clemson Head Coach Nancy Harris said. “They have always been a staple for us.”
That’s true. Since Jayet, Clemson saw Alix Lacelarie win 66 matches in singles and 80 in doubles from 2002-‘05. Julie Coin won 101 singles
matches and 90 doubles matches on her way to All-American status from 2003-‘05, while Alexandra Luc (2006-’09) won 61 matches and had 81 doubles victories during her four years in Tigertown.
The last three years the Tigers have had Nelly Ciolkowski, who has proudly notched 73 singles victories, including Sunday’s 6-2, 6-0 win over NC State’s Christy Sipes.
“When I decided to come here, I did not make the decision alone,” Ciolkowski said. “Julie Coin and Alexandra Luc advised me to come here.
They told me how great it was.”
Ciolkowski has been good to Clemson too, which is why she was honored with fellow seniors Keri Wong and Josipa Bek prior to Sunday’s 6-1
victory over NC State on Senior Day. The Neuilly-Plaisance, France native won her 20th match of the season, while improving her 2012 record to
20-11 and 6-4 in the ACC.
“I have tried to spread the word about Clemson to some of my tennis friends, but the rules are becoming strict so it is getting harder and harder to recruit there,” Ciolkowski said.
Harris is hoping she can find a way to continue Clemson’s French connection in the years to come. Since Jayet, the women’s program has
been to the NCAA Tournament 11 of the last 12 years, including 10 straight – all with at least one French woman on the team. During that sametime, the Tigers have been to two ACC Championships and two NCAA Final Fours.
It appears the Tigers (15-8, 8-3) are destined for an 11 straight NCAA appearance with Ciolkowski on the team this year.
“I was kind of thinking, I don’t want to lose are lucky charm,” Harris said with a smile. “Hopefully we will get another French player.”
If Harris does, she hopes it is one with the talents of Ciolkowski. In 2010, she recorded an impressive 29-7 record in singles and then followed that up last year with a 24-15 record.
“Nelly, who is playing five for us, she can play one,” Harris said. “She is such a good player. If you play her on the right day, she is deadly.”
Ciolkowski has won four straight matches heading into the ACC Tournament. It meant even more she was able to keep the streak going on
“This day means a lot,” she said. “There was lot of emotions and memories in my head. It’s just a good feeling. Though I’m a little sad, at the same time, I’m excited to turn the page and start a new chapter in my life.”
With four straight ACC victories to lockup a first-round bye in this week’s ACC Tournament, the Tigers are also in good position to maybe
host an NCAA Regional.
“I think we are getting more constant and solid,” Ciolkowski said. “I’m really excited about our chances in the ACCs and the NCAAs. I think
at the beginning of the season, we had to adjust. The more matches we played, we became solid. We became more of a team. I’m very excited about our chances.”