From all-state high school tennis finalist to being named to the All-GLIAC First-Team, senior Shea Donahue has made quite an impact on the tennis court in her decorated career. The Intercollegiate Tennis Association has ranked Donahue as the No. 14 singles player in the Midwest Region.
Donahue is the third Cardinal to be ranked in the top-15 in program history, following former teammate Izabella Ismailova and alum Yunjiao Shangguan.
“(The ranking) has meant that all of my hard work and focus during my senior year was recognized, and it’s a reflection of my coaching staff’s confidence in me playing No. 1 singles for our team,” Donahue said.
Donahue had a strong fall season in singles competition. She finished with an overall singles record of 7-5. In her four seasons, she has an overall singles record of 48-28 and overall doubles record of 45-28.
With the departure of the team’s top two singles competitors, Donahue made the jump from the No. 3 position to the No. 1 position this season. The leap meant that she would go head-to-head with opposing teams’ best singles players.
“She had success in previous (positions), but to see her take on this new challenge and successfully represent our program at the highest level was pretty amazing,” head coach Jennifer Boehm said. “Every match she plays, she is up against the best from the opposing school … Of the five matches she lost, three of them were incredibly close three-setters.”
In order to find more faith on the court, Donahue used her faith off the court to help with the transition. For the last four years, she has been a part of a Christian organization called Athletes in Action (AIA). Her experience with the group changed her perspective as a student-athlete and helped her adjust to the high-caliber level of competition that No. 1 singles brought.
“I was fortunate enough to participate in the Ultimate Training Camp this past summer through AIA, and it was life-changing,” Donahue said. “It changed my perspective on what it is to be a college athlete and having the ability to play the sport I love at such a high level. No matter the outcome of my matches this year, I wanted to make sure to walk off the court knowing I gave it my all.”
Through the organization, she realized that with a loss came a great learning experience that she could turn into a positive. She gave up the stress of what she could have done differently to win a match and began to focus on patience and minimizing mistakes.
“I became a more consistent and patient player this year,” Donahue said. “That affected the outcome of a lot of my matches. Having seen the caliber of play that No. 1 singles carries by watching (Ismailova) the last three years, I knew it would be a tough position. I love being challenged, and playing that spot this year was what I had been working toward. I loved it so much, I found myself never wanting my tennis career to end.”
A native of Haslett, she played for Haslett High School under coach and former SVSU tennis alum Samantha Brunnschweiler. Donahue amassed a final record of 63-9 at the high school level. That led her to become a three-time regional champion, two-time state semifinalist and an Honorable Mention for All-State. She also participated in cross country and track.
In addition to singles, Donahue this year played No. 1 doubles with sophomore partner Taylor McLaughlin. McLaughlin recognizes Donahue for making her second season with the team fun and relaxed.
“(Shea) has been good at motivating the team and making sure we all loved working out as much as she did,” McLaughlin said. “She reassured me to not take any of this for granted, because it goes by so fast. We had tons of fun playing doubles together and, of course, you need to be focused, but this year I realized you can’t let any of that take away from actually having fun.”
Donahue’s presence on and off the court has left a lasting impact on the tennis program.
“(She) brings a level of confidence that is unmistakable,” Boehm said. “She loves a challenge and doesn’t shy away from tough opponents or situations and inspires her teammates in that way. Off-court, her goofiness and sense of humor make us laugh, and she really does a great job of bringing our team closer together.”
The program has also left a lasting impact on Donahue’s life as she looks to complete her collegiate career this spring.
“I’m so blessed to have been given this amazing opportunity here,” Donahue said. “Coach has worked so hard to get us where we are today. From the trainers, fans, friends, conditioning coaches and photographers to all the positive tweets, articles and yes, even study hall. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this journey.”