Engineering major on NCAA Championship tennis team offers advice for sport, life

Maggie Leavell collects her 2015 NCAA Women's Tennis Championship ring from David Williams, vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs. (Vanderbilt University)

Maggie Leavell started at Vanderbilt University as a tennis player on an underdog team, going into every match with something to prove.

Today, she’s on the 2015 NCAA Championship team, and in some ways, that’s even tougher.

“It’s so very surreal,” said Leavell (ES’16). “But it’s something we’ve done a good job of handling. There are higher expectations now, and we have to make sure we’re doing absolutely everything we can that we’re still the best come May.”

In addition to frequent travel to tournaments, Leavell is on the cusp of midterm exams in her demanding engineering science major and corporate strategy minor. Once both the tennis season and Commencement are over, she’ll start her job with business and technology consulting firm InfoWorks in Nashville – a position that interested her because it deals with multiple, diverse industries.

Maggie Leavell (Vanderbilt University)

She excelled at math and science at Hutchison School in Memphis, Tennessee, and a high school physics teacher suggested that she study biomedical engineering in college. Leavell said she switched majors after realizing engineering science would allow her to delve into engineering more broadly and spend more time on another love: finance.

She doesn’t remember a time she wasn’t playing tennis. Her mother, Janet Wepfer Leavell, played tennis for Vanderbilt, graduating in 1982. Her twin sister, Neely, has been a practice partner since they were toddlers. (Neely is attending the University of Tennessee but isn’t on the tennis team there).

But tennis put Maggie Leavell through an experience one year ago that was painful both physically and emotionally.

“I ended up getting hit in the head with a tennis ball at practice, and that resulted in a concussion that made it very hard to study and do my homework. I couldn’t play for a while. So I had to learn how to cope with that while trying to get better as fast as I could,” she said.

Asked to provide tips for amateur tennis enthusiasts, Leavell thought for a moment.

“Run down every ball, because you might get a ball back your opponent won’t think you will, and you’ll get a point,” she said. “Just have fun – that’s important with everything you do.

“And my grandfather always said this: Win the last point of your match.”


Heidi Hall, (615) 322-6614
On Twitter @VUEngineering