Not every student-athlete has a sibling waiting to welcome them with open arms as they transition to a college team, but for Whitney Turley, a sophomore on the University of Utah women’s tennis team, that was exactly the case.
Ever since Turley was a little girl, she wanted to play at a Pac-12 school. When Utah presented itself as an option, she jumped at the opportunity to stay close to her hometown of Kaysville, while having a chance to compete in what she believes is one of the toughest conferences. An added bonus to staying in-state was that she would be near her family, as well as be college teammates with her sister.
Brianna, one of Whitney’s older sisters, is a junior on the team. Unlike Whitney, Brianna didn’t have the comfort of having a family member on the team her first year.
“I was just getting used to playing college tennis and going to school,” Brianna said. “I had friends and stuff, but obviously I didn’t have family there, so the difference between not having my sister was I didn’t have that family member that I was really close to where I could call her up and say ‘Let’s hang out’ or ‘Hey, let’s go hit.’ It was more of being independent and it being more individual.”
When Whitney told Brianna she was going to Utah, Brianna was excited. The two sisters have always been close and to be able to play college tennis together after playing high school tennis together was news both of them wanted to hear.
“At first I was a little nervous,” Brianna said. “She committed so early and I hadn’t even gone to school yet, and so it didn’t really settle in, but then I was so excited. I thought it was going to be so exciting to have her here with me.”
Now that the Turley sisters have played through a season together as Utah teammates, Brianna said it was a fun experience, and it was nice to have someone who she could always make plans with and practice with. For Whitney, she enjoyed having a support system behind her at all times.
“She definitely was very supportive as a teammate, but also, she helped show me the ropes,” Whitney said. “It definitely made the transition into college tennis a lot easier and she definitely helped me through a lot of situations because she already had the experience.”
Head coach Mat Iandolo said both sisters put others ahead of themselves, which makes them good teammates to have. He was able to see first-hand this season the way Brianna, often referred to as Breezy, watched out for and protected her younger sister on the court.
“Breezy was very supportive of [Whitney], almost distractingly so,” Iandolo said. “Breezy is a great big sister, but I think she almost gives too much of herself to Whitney. I felt like saying to her sometimes ‘Hey, she is doing alright, Breezy. You just focus on you.’”
With another season around the corner, both sisters are looking forward to seeing the development of each other and how they will compete. Iandolo is looking ahead to that as well, but he also would like to see them just relax.
“I think they put too much pressure on their happiness from the results of their tennis matches,” Iandolo said. “I don’t want them to be defined solely by how they do on the court. I just hope for them to use the experience they’ve had up to this point, to relax and enjoy it. I really think the next two years with them together are going to be great.”