Freshman Madeliene Baillon has already earned a Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) title and shows no signs of slowing down now.
In early October, just a few months into her college tennis career, Baillon walked away from the MVC Individual Championships in St. Louis, Mo. with a title.
“I definitely wasn’t expecting to win and I was trying not to put too much pressure on myself because I was coming in as a freshman,” Baillon said. “I was saying that I would try my best and the outcome would be whatever it was.”
As the daughter of a former Illini tennis player, Baillon has been playing tennis most of her life, including throughout her four years at St. Thomas More High School in Champaign.
Both of her parents were present to see Baillon win her title and were extremely proud to see all of their daughter’s hard work pay off.
“I love having both of my parents around when I compete,” Baillon said. “My dad is very supportive and my mom is good to calm down the nerves.”
Transitioning from high school tennis to college tennis has been a big step for Baillon, primarily due to the time commitment and balancing act involving schoolwork and athletics.
“Tennis is great because it makes me stay on top of all my work and teaches me how to balance my time,” Baillon said.
Alongside her, offering encouragement and making her transition easier, are Baillon’s fellow Redbird teammates. Baillon describes the decorum on the courts as whoever is not playing will be walking around cheering and offering tips.
Baillon has become especially close with fellow freshman Sierra Stone, with whom she can share experiences and hardships unique to freshmen on the team.
“It’s nice to know I’m not the only one dealing with certain things,” Baillon said.
Although many players strive for an accomplishment such as an MVC title, this early win has not caused Baillon to hit the breaks on her efforts on the courts.
“I make sure that I push myself because I showed myself and my team that I am able to accomplish these goals and [the title] will always be there,” Baillon said. “As long as I go out there and try my hardest and give it my all, that’s all anybody can ask for and I won’t necessarily be disappointed if the outcome is not the same next year.”
Baillon competed last weekend in the Second Chance Regionals hosted by Northern Illinois University. She placed in the top-10 individually and placed third in doubles with her partner Heather Nisbet.
“It’s a big compliment to [Baillon] to have had such a good weekend because she has been playing so well so far,” Chris Hoover, head women’s tennis coach, said.
Although Baillon won her title as an individual, she does not take all the credit.
“I wouldn’t have been able to [win the title] without the support and the push of my team, so it is definitely looked at as a team effort even though to others it is looked at as an individual title,” Baillon said.
Baillon and the rest of the Redbirds pick up with their spring season against Eastern Illinois University on Jan. 24th.