BATAVIA – As the sun sets on her women's tennis career at Augustana College, former Batavia standout Kim Sawyer will leave a legacy like no other, as she exits as the program's all-time leader in singles (106) and total wins (178).
And that ís only the beginning.
Three times the team's most valuable player and twice the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin Player of the Year, Sawyer recently concluded a senior season which netted both singles and doubles championships.
This past season, Sawyer led the team to a 18-7 record and a No. 16 ranking in the NCAA Division III Central Region after Augustana fell to Wheaton College and lost the chance to compete in the Division III national tournament.
As an individual, Sawyer compiled a 24-5 record and claimed her second straight CCIW No. 1 singles championship. In addition, she teamed with Aileen MacDonald to win a conference title at second doubles.
Sawyer recently graduated with a bachelor's degree in Communication Studies and Disorders.
Sawyer got her start in tennis in part due to her mother, Debbie, who played tennis in high school and college. Having sisters Kristina and Katie play varsity at Batavia before her didn't hurt, either.
“She didn't really start playing intensely until eighth grade/freshman year,” Debbie Sawyer estimates.
Yet, once she started her freshman year at Batavia in 2006, Sawyer took the sport by storm. After starting as a four-year varsity player and leaving the program with the second-most wins (105), and eight tournament victories, she set off for Augustana in the fall of 2010, and immediately settled in.
She went 29-7 in singles matches, breaking a 13-year old program record for single season wins. In addition, she posted a 22-9 record in doubles
From there, Sawyer never looked back, and power-served her way to a second-place finish at the CCIW singles championship. Sawyer also earned a first-team all conference selection and became the recipient of the Viking New Comer award.
All as a freshman.
“I accomplished more than I expected over my four years there,” Sawyer said. “I actually didn't know I was close to breaking the [career singles wins] record, so it was nice [when I did].”
All those accolades didn't come without a grueling schedule, as Sawyer had practice five days a week and matches on the weekends, all while balancing classes and homework, as well.
Sawyer began her collegiate career under Adam Strand, who coached Sawyer for the 2010-2011 season. He left the school the following season to accept the men's and women's tennis head coaching positions at his alma mater, Luther College.
As the recruitment process got under way, Strand watched Sawyer at a high school match, and recalled noticing her intangibles and mental toughness right away.
“I had to have her on my team. There was someone who could help change the culture of the team,” Strand said.
Once Sawyer arrived on campus, it quickly became evident to him how hard she worked to improve every day, and Strand especially noticed how her confidence grew as the season progressed.
“After awhile, I think she realized what she could do at this level, and I told her she can be a special player. She is probably one of my favorite players I've ever coached,” he said.
Once Strand left, Jon Miedema took over as women's head coach at Augustana. He previously served as the men's head coach at Grace Bible College for the 2010-2011 season.
Above all, Sawyer's parents, Debbie and Chuck, were always there to support her.
“They attended almost all of my matches, so I wanted to make them proud,” Sawyer said.
And proud seems to be an understatement.
“I think as parents you're happy when your kids find a passion and have success doing it,” Debbie Sawyer said. "Kim is well-respected on and off the court, and several times throughout her career, coaches would come up to us and compliment her.”
Debbie Sawyer recalled matches against Wheaton College were always tough for her daughter because they could have gone either way, but Sawyer always had the will to succeed.
While her collegiate career is finished, she is set to attend the University of Tennessee for her doctorate in Audiology. Although her eligibility is finished for competing for the NCAA, Sawyer hopes to connect with a tennis club during her time there. In the meantime, she is staying active in the tennis scene, as she currently teaches tennis lessons at the St. Charles Country Club.
“It makes me want to play more, but now I get to teach kids how to play,” Sawyer said.
Maybe she'll be a coach later on?
“Once I get a job,” she said.