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Lemay finding his niche on SVCC tennis team

Old college try

Geoff Lemay, 35, has found his niche as a member of the Sauk Valley men's tennis team. Lemay is the No. 9 player on the team, but  also serves as a mentor to his younger teammates.
Geoff Lemay, 35, has found his niche as a member of the Sauk Valley men's tennis team. Lemay is the No. 9 player on the team, but also serves as a mentor to his younger teammates.

With a few flecks of gray in his hair and a bit of an executive paunch, Geoff Lemay doesn't appear to be a typical junior college athlete.

In fact, while taking in Wednesday's tennis match between Sauk Valley and Rock Valley, he could have passed for one of the player's fathers, or at least an older brother. Instead, he was there to root on his teammates, after finding out he wouldn't be competing.

Rock Valley originally planned to bring eight players, meaning Lemay would see some court action in an exhibition match. When only six RVC players made the trip from Rockford to Dixon, after two backed out at the last minute, Lemay was relegated to the sidelines.

He didn't seem to mind. For the 35-year-old Lemay, an accounting major with a 4.0 grade point average, as well as a wife with two young children, tennis is about the fun.

"I'm extremely competitive," Lemay said, "and it's a nice way to break up all the serious studying. I can just blow off some steam, and hit some tennis balls. It's just a good break from my academics."

Lemay played 2 years of tennis at Pontiac High School, in 1993 and 1994, then transferred to Tri-Point H.S. in Cullom. That school did not offer boys tennis, and when he graduated in 1995, his tennis was mostly limited to recreational matches with family and friends during the summer.

A retail store manager job at U.S. Cellular brought Lemay to Sterling about 6 years ago, and he worked there for a little more than a year. He then worked as an order filler and freight processor at the WalMart Distribution Center for about 3½ years before back issues forced him to give up that job.

He decided he wanted to go to college, and Sauk Valley was the place he wanted to start. That led him to call tennis coach Sara Kipping, who said all are welcome to join the team.

Workouts for the 2012 season began that winter at the Westwood Sports Complex, and Lemay was admittedly rusty.

"The first month and a half was pretty ugly in practice," Lemay said with a smile.

Lemay was the No. 7 player for Sauk Valley a year ago, but an influx of young talent this spring has him at No. 9 on the current depth chart. He scratches his competitive itch in practice, and proudly noted he's won matches against the No. 6, No. 7 and No. 8 players on the roster.

"I was worried that I would be horrible compared to them," Lemay said, "but I've held my own much better than I thought I would."

He gets by on guts and guile, as opposed to the speed and power players roughly half his age use. His game has caught his teammates' attention.

"He gives a lot of perspective on the game," freshman Gavin Jensen said, "and I admire him for hanging with us, too."

"Some of the guys just hate playing me," Lemay said. "My speed gets in the way sometimes, but when I return shots, a lot of times they're not able to get to them because I put them at extreme angles."

Jensen is one of the Skyhawks' top players, and enjoys having Lemay around both on and off the court. They have a couple of classes together, and Lemay occasionally helps Jensen with his studies, if they happen to cross paths in the tutorial lab.

Lemay works as a tutor at SVCC, as well as at Rock Falls High School, and he plans to major in accounting at Northern Illinois University this fall, after graduating from from Sauk Valley next month.

"He's been a positive role model for the guys," Kipping said. "He shows up for practice all the time, and he's getting better. Each practice, he's getting better. He's improved a lot from last year, and it's just fun to have him on the team."

Lemay file

High school: Tri-Point, class of 1995

Family: Wife, Shelly; children, Andrea, 12; Jacob, 10

Resides: Sterling

FYI: 35-year-old is member of Sauk Vally C.C. men's tennis team. ... Owns a 4.0 grade point average. ... Will attend Northern Illinois University in the fall


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