Climbing to the top

Max Molski

Women’s tennis captain Jacqueline Raynor has climbed all the way to No. 3 in Quinnipiac program all-time wins with her 145th career victory this past week.

Raynor can remember thinking about topping such a record during her freshman year, though she admits she never thought she’d actually get that close.

“Since my freshman year, coach [Paula Miller] has been talking about beating the [program wins] record,” Raynor said. “I never thought I could do it. But when I came back my senior year, coach was like ‘You could be No. 1 if you really tried.’”

“I think now that I am at three, I am two steps closer to getting there.”

Raynor didn’t start playing tennis until she was 11 years old. She started playing soccer when she was six years old, but made the transition to the court thanks to her parents encouragement.

“I kind of grew out of soccer,” Raynor explained. “My mom played tennis and so did my dad, so they said ‘Why don’t you [and your sister] play tennis?’ We tried it, we liked it and we stuck with it.”

Raynor began playing for Garden City High School in seventh grade, her first possible year of eligibility. She played doubles with her older sister, Kelsey, that season.

Once Kelsey graduated, Jacqueline took over the top singles spot on the team. Over her career, Raynor won four All-Long Island titles in doubles and the State Singles Championship her senior year.

Raynor was originally set on going to Marist College to play tennis with her sister. She said that she didn’t think of any other options during the recruitment process.

“I was set on Marist before I even met the coach because my sister went there,” Raynor said. “I was going to play with my sister and it would be perfect.”

That plan changed at a tournament at Yale.

Raynor says she only planned one visit with a college coach at the Yale tournament, and that was with Marist’s coach.

However, then-Quinnipiac head coach Mike Quitko saw Raynor play and suggested she take a tour of the campus.

“[Quitko] walked up to me, and asked if I wanted to visit Quinnipiac since it is right around the corner,” Raynor explained. “I came here, liked it, and was offered [to play] about a week later.”

Although Raynor played her final years at Garden City High School playing singles, most of her collegiate victories have come in doubles play. Raynor says the style of play in doubles has been favorable to her skill set.

“For doubles, it is more about tactics. You have to learn certain directions,” she said.

Raynor plays her doubles matches with fellow senior Michelle Dassa. Her previous experience with Dassa created a unique chemistry and expectation for playing at Quinnipiac.

“It helps that I have known [Michelle] for so long,” Raynor said. “Before coming here, we talked about playing doubles together because that was all we knew.”

Quinnipiac head coach Paula Miller says the combination of Raynor’s skill and her friendship with Dassa blends to make her the doubles player that she is.

“As a team, [Raynor and Dassa] know what each other are going to do,” Miller said. “[Raynor] is an all-around great player. She can anticipate the ball coming. The friendship with her and Michelle has helped.”

According to Raynor, her duo with Dassa was nearly halted before it even began.

“When we came here, coach [Quitko] told us he wasn’t putting us together because she is 5-feet tall and I’m 5-foot-9,” Dassa said. “He said it wasn’t going to work. Then he saw us play together. Now we’ve played together since freshman year.”

Raynor and Dassa earned the All-Northeast Conference First Team Doubles honor in their sophomore year and earned All-MAAC First Team No. 2 Doubles during their junior year.

Raynor isn’t always just a doubles player, however.

“When we play the tougher teams, she comes with the singles wins. She shows she can win at both [singles and doubles],” Miller said.

Raynor also serves as the team’s captain–which she thinks is about much more than performing on the court.

“Since I am the oldest person on the team, I feel like I should try to help out the kids who have not been on the team as long,” Raynor said. “I know when I was a freshman I looked up to the seniors for everything.”

“Kids look up to her. She has grown into a great leader on and off the court,” Miller said.

Raynor says that she’ll need a break from tennis once she graduates this year, but adds that she will not retire for good.

Right now, she’s 24-14 overall in her senior season, which puts her 14 wins behind Jessica Uccello for No. 2 in career wins and 20 behind Stephanie Petrycki for No. 1.

Raynor says she wants to finish out her Quinnipiac career atop the MAAC standings.

“I definitely hope to win [the conference] again,” Raynor said. “I think that is what our entire team is looking toward. If we try as hard as we did last year, we can definitely do it.”

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