April 6, 2010
Shantana Donegan still remembers the brightly-colored flyers scattered across the walls of East New York Family Academy during her freshman year.
"They just said `come out for tennis on Wednesday at 3 p.m.'," she said. "I was interested in it, so I just went for it. I made it, but no one on the team, including the coach, knew how to play. So it was rough at first. Eventually, we taught ourselves how to play and got better each year."
Nearly five years later Donegan, a native of Brooklyn, NY, is the No. 1 singles player at Fayetteville State.
"She has some areas still to be developed," said FSU Head Coach Arie Bennett. "When we had tryouts, she was kind of a shock and a surprise. I didn't think I was going to have too many girls who had actually played tennis before."
On the season, Donegan is tied with sophomore Amber Mitchell for the most singles wins. However, Donegan has hit a hot streak recently, winning four of her last five singles matches.
Bennett said that she's been impressed with Donegan's even-keeled approach to each match.
"She knows the game and what needs to be done," said Bennett. "Most of the time if I ask her to do something, she tries very hard. That's all I've asked of her and she's done it."
So how did a girl from the largest metropolitan area in the United States end up at FSU?
"My cousin told me that coming here (North Carolina), I'd get the full college experience -- athletics, games, sororities, fraternities and everything -- so I gave it a try," Donegan said. "I look at her like a sister, so I trusted what she said."
Donegan admitted that after being named FSU's No. 1 singles player as a freshman, she felt a little pressure.
"Of course I was nervous and I doubted myself a little bit," she said. "I thought maybe another one of my teammates deserved the spot, especially since a couple of them had been here and played before."
Added Bennett: "Most of her pressure came from trying to do well in her position, playing to the best of her ability against different opponents. Sometimes the level of competition in the CIAA can range from people who should be Division I to those who haven't played before."
FSU (3-11, 2-9 CIAA) has three matches left in the regular season. The Broncos travel to Shaw on Tuesday at 1 p.m. before hosting Livingstone for a doubleheader on Thursday at 1 p.m. and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Donegan said she hopes to use the final matches of the season to continue to improve.
"To play tennis is to have a purpose here at FSU," she said. "Tennis is something I love. I want to be my best and I want to give Coach (Bennett) a reason to keep me around."
With three years of eligibility remaining, Bennett believes Donegan can be one of the conference's best.
"She's a good girl and she has a lot of talent," she said. "By the time her senior year comes, she'll be a great tennis player in the CIAA."