By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
WEST MILTON — When making her plans for college, Milton-Union senior Laura Billing wasn’t even sure she wanted to continue her athletic career.
In the end, though, the two-sport athlete will be back on the tennis court again.
Billing, a two-time district qualifier in tennis and also a cross country runner, recently signed her National Letter of Intent to attend and play tennis for Indiana University East, an NAIA school in Richmond, Ind. that competes in the River States Conference.
And even though she participated in two sports in high school — both of them during the same season in the fall — when the time came to decide which to continue in college, Billing said the hardest decision was whether to continue either at all.
“I think I just knew I’d play tennis,” she said. “A few schools saw that I ran cross country, too, and asked me about it. Honestly, I wasn’t even planning on doing a sport in college, but I figured if I had the opportunity to, I should definitely take it — and I was pretty set on tennis the whole time.”
And, much like which sport to play in college, Billing, who plans on studying business with a focus on either economy or law, said the choice of where to go was an easy one, also.
“I really liked the size of (Indiana University East’s) campus, and the coaches just seemed really interested in me,” Billing said. “He was the coach that came out and watched me play. And when I was on campus for my visit, I really liked the girls on the team. I was able to practice with them, and I really liked how connected they all were with me. Getting a chance to see how they run their practices really helped.
“I looked at Heidelberg and Tiffin, too, and I really liked both of them. But in the end, I really liked the size of IU East and its coaches, and it was just a little more affordable.”
Billing was a district qualifier in doubles for the Bulldogs her sophomore year, but her junior season she chose not to play tennis and only ran cross country. She came back to tennis for her senior year, though, playing singles most of the regular season before qualifying for the district tournament again in doubles.
The fact that cross country and tennis both take place in the same season complicated things for her more than most two-sport athletes, she said.
“I did both sports my senior year, and it was definitely tough keeping up with both,” Billing said. “It was definitely different, especially with a new coach. I was definitely worried going back, especially after a year off, but I really loved (second-year coach Jenny Fox, who took over during Billing’s year off), and I enjoyed going back to tennis and being a leader on the team.
“(Running cross country) definitely helped, though. I could tell the difference (in endurance) on the court. One of my first matches my senior year was a three-setter, and then a few matches later I had another. I could definitely tell how different the third set was.”
And while the end of Billing’s senior year has been thrown off by the COVID-19 pandemic, she’s still found ways to stay in shape for the fall.
“It’s definitely been a bit of a struggle,” she said. “It’s been different, but we’re making the most of it. It’s also let me play more tennis — I’ve been hitting with friends and teammates a lot. We haven’t lost that connection.”
Contact Josh Brown at [email protected].
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