Lauren Connelly is living in the moment.
The senior captain of the women's tennis team has a very simple goal for herself this season - enjoy every minute.
"I want to keep everyone motivated this year," Connelly said. "But this is my last season and my last year playing [competitive] tennis. I just want to have fun and appreciate everything that happens."
Connelly's easygoing nature should not be interpreted as lacking effort or focus.
In fact, it's quite the opposite.
"She works hard," coach Jay Louderback said. "She is one of the players that comes in the most outside practice to work on her game."
The results speak to her dedication. Connelly has won more than 70 percent of her career doubles matches. Last season she played No. 4 singles and compiled a 22-13 record. She also teamed up with Brook Buck to post a 27-12 record at No. 2 doubles. The marketing major also boasts a 3.7 GPA.
The senior's ability to combine her work ethic with light-hearted moments has made her well-liked among her teammates. More importantly, she has earned her teammates' respect.
"She's funny and she keeps the team loose; she's got a great personality," Louderback said. "She has also matured over four years and has developed into a great leader."
Connelly was quick to point out that the responsibility for leading the Irish this season will fall on all five seniors on the team.
"There are four other seniors with me, so it's not all on me," she said. "I'm just going to look at what past seniors have done and learn from that. Everyone on the team is really close, so that makes it easier too."
Louderback also felt that past players have had an effect on Connelly.
"Part of the reason that she is a good leader is that she was a good follower," he said. "She's done everything we've ever asked of her since she's been here."
Much of the focus will be put on Connelly to lead a talented Irish team to national prowess. In addition to her singles play, Connelly will team up with fellow senior Kiki Stastny to anchor the doubles lineup at No. 2 position. Connelly's aggressive nature on the tennis court makes her a force in doubles, which Louderback thinks will be a strength of his team this season.
"She loves to come to the net," Louderback said. "She plays better when she comes forward, that's what makes her a very good doubles player. We have the potential to put three very good doubles teams on the court this year."
Connelly has been a key contributor to the recent success of the women's tennis program, and her efforts have not gone unrewarded. She feels the team has taught her important lifelong values about teamwork and cooperation.
"This team has helped me to realize that my actions have an effect on more than one person. I've also learned to communicate better by interacting with my teammates," she said.
The last three years also afforded Connelly a unique opportunity to play with her sister Sarah Jane, who graduated in the spring. Connelly and Louderback agreed that the two enjoyed the experience and that they grew closer working together. The Connellys, along with Thompson twins, Christian and Catrina, have helped to develop a family atmosphere that has brought the team close and allowed them to play together and rise in the rankings.
This season as the Irish look to defend their Big East championship and rise into the top 10 in the national rankings, Connelly knows she will play her best if she continues to let her personality come out in her tennis game.
"I just like to have fun out there," she said. "I play my best when I'm loose and relaxed."