Sophomore Claire Reifeis captured nine singles wins and five doubles wins in invitational play this fall.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Tennis Life of Reifeis Focused on Team

By Rachel Long

For Nebraska sophomore Claire Reifeis, tennis is a way of life.

Reifeis, who finished 44-22 in her first season at Nebraska, was in some ways born with tennis flowing through her veins. The daughter of Jenny and Rick Reifeis, Claire’s mother played on Indiana’s 1982 National Championship team. Jenny Reifeis is currently a junior team tennis coordinator for the U.S. Tennis Association. Claire’s father is an accountant who teaches tennis on the side, and Claire’s older brother, Will, is a senior on the Wabash College tennis team.

Although her parents helped her test the waters with basketball, soccer and softball while Claire was growing up, tennis has always been a key part of her life.

Since she started playing at age 6, tennis was as routine as going to school for the Indianapolis native. Despite growing up with the idea that she would play at the college level one day, her passion for the courts didn’t start until she played on her first official team her freshman year of high school.

“It was the first team aspect [I experienced] and I loved it,” Reifeis said. “I fell in love with tennis my freshman year. It was just different. High school tennis was three months a year and those three months I was with the same girls every day, and it was just more fun because I got to know them better, so it helped me make friends. Tennis is really hard to make a team sport, it’s a very individual sport, but when you can make it a team sport, I think it’s a lot more fun.”

Reifeis discovered in high school how much more meaningful a win was when you achieved it with a team behind you. By the close of her senior season of high school tennis, Reifeis was ranked No. 53 nationally, honored as a Marion County and Purdue ITA Champion, distinguished as a four-time first-team All-State player and had played on back-to-back conference championship teams.

Early in her senior year, Reifeis committed to play collegiately at Drake. However, in December of 2015, Drake’s Head Coach Sadhaf Pervez resigned. The sudden change shook Reifeis, but now she refers to the whole situation as a blessing in disguise.

Frantic and uneager to re-enter the recruiting process, Reifeis was referred by Pervez to Nebraska, where Pervez served as a women’s tennis assistant coach during the team’s 2004-05 season. Reifeis found herself immediately drawn in by Husker Nation.

“Here, I just got the friendly, family feel, especially from the coaches and the team,” Reifeis said. “This place is so special. Like the stadium, all the perks we get. Also Nebraska is like a family. The other school I was looking at, it was more of a big city, and I’m more of a Lincoln kind of person. I love Lincoln. It’s like a family here, everyone knows each other.”

Since committing to NU and racking up some of the team’s top records in her first season, including the best record in doubles play at 24-8 and second-best in singles at 20-14, the team aspect of tennis is still the most special for Reifeis.

“Last fall, we played at Kansas City and it wasn’t like a dual match format, but you played singles against one team and then you played singles against another team, because you’re not allowed to do a dual match in the fall,” Reifeis said. “It was my first taste of what an actual college match was like, and I fell in love with how there’s five of your teammates competing next to you. There’s your teammates cheering you on. It was the first college setting that I was like, ‘Wow, this is amazing.’”

As she prepares for her sophomore season at Nebraska, Reifeis can’t wait for more memories, but she is also focused on team goals.

“I have more team goals, because I think personally you should focus more on the team aspect than yourself,” Reifeis said. “So I don’t have any individual goals per say, but I want the team to do well. And it’s always easier to play when you’re playing for someone else.”

Head Coach Scott Jacobson said Reifeis’ commitment to team-first values has had an extremely positive impact on the program.

“As a freshman, she played primarily No. 2 singles, as well as playing high level doubles,” Jacobson said. “We asked so much of Claire her freshman year and she certainly delivered. She is committed to growing her game and that showed loud and clear this fall with some tremendous results. Claire plays with passion always, has an aggressive style of play, and is capable of hitting a winner from pretty much anywhere on the court. She believes wholeheartedly in the philosophy of our program, and for that we are extremely grateful. We feel very fortunate to have Claire competing for our Husker family, she is a young lady with tremendous integrity and character, and someone so incredibly committed to making Nebraska tennis the best that it can become.”

Off the court, Reifeis is invested in her studies of actuarial science and looks forward to working as an actuary in the insurance industry after college. Her gratifying first year in Lincoln and the people she’s met have also initiated her interest in staying in Nebraska post-graduation.

As for the next three seasons ahead of her, of all the people she’s met, Reifeis is most fueled by the Big Red tennis family she feels so lucky to have found.

“For me, personally, the tournaments we play in the fall, the individual tournaments, they’re harder for me than dual matches, because I’m not playing next to my teammates,” Reifeis said. “At tournaments in the fall, if I have a teammate next to me, I’ll instantly play better. I just know that they’re right next to me and they’re going through the same thing as me, like I cheer on my teammate when they’re playing next to me, we support each other.”

Reifeis said the support her teammates share for each other is no different off the court than on the court.

“We all spend time with each other, we love each other,” Reifeis said. “I live with a teammate, I spend time with a lot of my teammates. They’re my best friends.”

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