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2016 USTA National Junior Scholar Athlete Award winners named

Alexis Milunovich
June 14, 2016 01:23 PM

By Sally Milano, USTA.com

Two of the best and brightest young student-athletes in the country were recently honored for their accomplishments both on and off the court.

Dartmouth recruit David Horneffer and Harvard-bound Alexis Milunovich (pictured above) were named the recipients of the 2016 USTA National Junior Scholar Athlete Awards, honoring high school tennis players who best demonstrate that tennis is the sport of opportunity for education, advancement and character development.

The two will be honored in September at the USTA Semi-Annual meeting at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City.

“Alexis and David have each set an incredible example of what it means to be a scholar-athlete by excelling in junior tennis and in the classroom,” said Kurt Kamperman, Chief Executive, Community Tennis, USTA. “They truly are leaders among their peers, and we’re excited for both of their futures as student-athletes at Ivy League schools.”

This is the fifth year the USTA has awarded its National Junior Scholar-Athlete award. To qualify, students must have an un-weighted GPA of 3.75 on a 4.0 scale and be ranked in the Top 100 of the USTA Boys’ or Girls’ 18s national standings. A written essay, as well as leadership and sportsmanship, were also considered.

Horneffer, a graduating senior at Brookfield East High School in Brookfield, Wisc., was ranked No. 30 in the nation at the time of the entry deadline in April and is a National Merit Finalist and an Advanced Placement Scholar with Distinction. He was the captain of the Brookfield East varsity tennis team in 2015-16, helping the team win the state title in 2014 and reaching state singles finals in 2014 and 2015. He also served as class president and on the executive board of the Student Council and was the sports editor of the school newspaper, in addition to leading several extracurricular service projects.

Milunovich, a graduating senior at Greenwich Academy in Greenwich, Conn., was ranked No. 34 in the country at the time of the deadline and was named an Advanced Placement Scholar with Honor and a National Merit Commended Scholar. She is the founder and president of the Greenwich Academy Math Center, a student-run math tutoring center, helped lead an effort to donate soccer equipment to Indonesian schools and interviewed professional women in the math and science fields to help inspire girls to consider scientific careers. Milunovich has also done well at USTA junior tournaments, having reached the semifinals of the USTA Girls’ 16s National Championships in 2014.

As part of the National Junior Scholar Athlete Award’s application process, each player was prompted to write a personal essay, answering the question, "In 500 words or less, how have you used the lessons you have learned on the tennis court in the classroom and in your life?"

In an excerpt from his essay, Horneffer wrote: "During a tennis match, one is constantly forced to make decisions: what shot to hit, where to serve, when to approach. Although I may not always make the right decision, I have learned to evaluate situations quickly, think critically and take action. I have found that these skills are applicable to countless situations in everyday life. When I helped tutor inner-city Milwaukee students through our National Junior Tennis and Learning program, sometimes I found that my first method of explaining things didn’t work, and I would have to figure out another way to connect. In computer programming, my initial programs rarely are successful; but by thinking logically and progressing through a number of strategies, I typically find a solution."

In her essay, Milunovich wrote: "I realized I was obsessed with tennis when I was asked the name of my biology partner and replied with the name of my doubles partner. … The concentration required by tennis encourages me to live in the moment. The same attention to detail helps when translating Latin passages or solving quadratic equations. Conversely, school benefits my playing because tennis is math and physics. I bisect the angle when I move to the ball and use Bernoulli's Principle – more commonly known as topspin – for my powerful forehand. … Preparing for matches means honing my skills and scouting opponents. Getting ready for tests includes reviewing material but also having a sense of what the teacher wants – teachers can be scouted, too! … The euphoria and disappointments I've felt in wins and losses occur in my non-tennis life, as well. Just as I need to keep an even keel in matches and bounce back from tough losses, so have I learned perspective and persistence in my daily life."