Whether you’re talking tennis or flicker-ball, Katie Dougherty, a leading senior on the UW Women’s tennis team, has the killer instinct.
Standing at 5-foot-6 and pursuing a possible creative-writing career, off the court Dougherty comes across as a laid-back person with an easy disposition and a friendly smile. A casual observer would never have the chance to see what she claims is her other personality.
Put her on the tennis court, though, and a virtual Dr.-Jekyll-to-Mr.-Hyde transformation takes place.
“I’m a pretty calm person, but on the court it’s a different story,” Dougherty said. “I’m very competitive. That’s my flair. That’s what gets me going.”
Even before receiving her first tennis racket from her grandfather at age eight, Dougherty was honing her game-face by playing soccer, softball and basketball. She was using everything she had and laying it all on the table.
During the tennis team’s practice, it becomes evident that Dougherty does indeed leave it all on the court, approaching every offensive and defensive move with a vengeance. She carries that attitude into a game of flicker-ball, during which the objective is to do some physical conditioning while bonding with the other players. For Dougherty the game is no less competitive than a grueling match on the tennis court.
Being a natural competitor, Dougherty approaches athletics, and especially her tennis game, as a release, a controlling tool, while always aiming to win.
“I moved around a lot. [I] lived overseas twice [in Hong Kong],” Dougherty said. “Sports were important for me. It was immediate friends, and it was something constant. The court can be an escape — if you have a terrible day, you can just come out and smash balls and get out your aggressions. When I play, I just try to leave everything on the court. I try everything to win, to be competitive.”
Dougherty’s play-to-win spirit seems to have succeeded. She came to UW as the Maryland state high school singles champion in 1997 and the state doubles champion in 1996, going on to be ranked fourth in the Mid-Atlantic division and 159th nationally in singles in 1998.
As a collegiate player, Dougherty continued that success and has since pulled off a first-place finish at the Notre Dame Eck Classic in Flight C singles last fall, and again in Flight B doubles.
This year Dougherty plays an integral part for the team as a top contender. While always looking to play her best personal game, she remains a true team player.
“This is the kind of sport that, if you’re the best person on the team, or if you’re playing No. 6 for us, you win your match, you get one point,” Dougherty said. “It doesn’t matter where you’re playing if you contribute to the team. I want to win matches for the team, no matter where I’m put in singles or doubles.”
With that in mind, Dougherty and the rest of her teammates move on to the fall flighted tournaments. This Thursday UW will head to South Carolina and Palm Springs, Calif., for the Furman and Adidas invitationals.
The team encountered some troubles in the last few years with injuries and transfers, but it seems to be finally grounded this season after the addition of four freshmen to the one sophomore, three juniors and two seniors already on the team.
While the team may be young this season, the Badgers see this as refreshing. They aim for a successful season.
“We have a good team this year,” Dougherty said. “Our freshmen are good this year, and I think they can really make a difference. We have good team chemistry, and I think we are going to do well, have a good time.”
With the future looking bright for Dougherty and the team, the Badgers move to their fall season in good spirits and with a resounding competitive attitude.