For a standard tennis player, the game involves obstacles that may be arduous, yet are necessary to overcome in order to excel in the sport. For UCSB freshman Jaimee Gilbertson, these obstacles included traveling from her hometown of Noosa, Australia and adopting to an entirely new culture and lifestyle all at the age of 17.
Gilbertson began competing in the sport of tennis at a very young age and by the time she was in high school, she had been excelling far above her fellow opponents.
“There is no competitive play in high school and no high school teams, so to play you have to be on a completely separate club or team outside of school,” Gilbertson said. “Coming here and actually playing on a team at school is very different. You play not only for yourself but for your teammates and your school. It’s a lot of responsibility because you have to rely on your teammates while they rely on you, and it builds a very strong team connection.”
Gilbertson has an impressive resumé from her play in Australia as well. She has won six national titles in singles, doubles and team events. She holds 11 Australian Tournament titles as well as 36 Optus junior titles and was the captain of her tennis team in 2012 and 2013. So when high school ended for Gilbertson, she knew she had a bright future in the sport of tennis ahead of her.
“I traveled to Texas, Memphis and Florida, but my decision to come to UCSB really came down to the coach,” Gilbertson said. “Coach Thibodeau was recommended by the coaches back home for his previous experience and success at Fresno State. So when I came to visit UCSB, I knew that he knew what he was talking about. He explained to me that he had a team that was really starting over and that he wanted a team that he could build and take to the next level for NCAA competition.”
In the first half of her season, Gilbertson was sidelined by an injury and eventual surgery to her hand. The recovery for Gilbertson took much of the first half of the season. However, once Gilbertson was healthy, she swiftly regained her power and used the sheer knowledge of the game that she had championed so fiercely earlier in her career.
Winning her first couple matches back from surgery has been considered the most memorable moment of Gilbertson’s first year playing for the Gauchos.
Although feelings of homesickness and the immersion into a new country over 7,000 miles away from her homeland, Gilbertson has continued to be superior in her abilities on the court. In the past two matches, Gilbertson has been placed at the first singles position and won both matches against opponents UC Riverside and Cal State Northridge.
With Gilbertson only in her first year, the 17 year old looks to be an extensive bright spot for UCSB in years to come.
A version of this article appeared on page 14 of April 23rd’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Kenneth Song of the Daily Nexus.