SARASOTA — Caroline Dailey refuses to take the easy way out.
Over the past five years, The Out-of-Door Academy senior has developed into one of the nation’s elite tennis players and, yet, she still finds time to attend high school, homecoming dances, after-school activities and to maintain her social obligations — all while dealing with the pressures that come from being a player of her caliber.
But, Dailey’s coaches say the drive, determination and dedication she has to her sport, her academics and her ODA community are by no means “normal.”
“Caroline would rather be good than have a number by her name,” says Mike Wilson, Dailey’s personal tennis coach.
Dailey’s hard work and ability to make the abnormal seem normal paid off Nov. 16, when she signed a national letter of intent to play tennis for the University of South Carolina.
With her parents, Lisa and Peter Dailey, and her coach by her side, Dailey made her college intentions known in front of her classmates during an assembly in the school’s Petrik Thunderdome.
“It’s incredible,” Dailey says. “I’ve been working for this my entire life. I didn’t take the traditional (college recruiting) route, so it was really huge for me to find a coach who could look past all of that and see my potential as a player.”
Dailey chose South Carolina over the University of Notre Dame, Ohio State University, the University of Illinois and Florida State University.
“Thanks to everyone at Out-of-Door Academy for preparing and supporting Caroline, as she begins the transition into the next big stage in her life,” South Carolina coach Kevin Epley says. “It is obvious that she is well-loved and respected there, and we at the University of South Carolina feel fortunate to have such a strong, ambitious and talented young lady join our squad.”
During her time at ODA, Dailey, who earned the nickname C.O.D., which stands for Championships On Delivery, from Athletic Director Brett Timmons, won three consecutive women’s singles state titles before taking last season off to focus on national and international tournaments.
Since then, Dailey has become one of the nation’s elite tennis players and is currently ranked 1,158th in the WTA rankings. And, with her senior year now upon her, Dailey is thinking of returning to ODA’s girls tennis team one final time to try and help the Lady Thunder win a team state title.
“We are so proud to be a part of (her) life, and we thank you (her) for sharing (her) true self with us,” ODA tennis coach Noel Dougherty says.
Dailey then will head off to South Carolina, where she says she is looking forward to the challenges that come from being a part of a collegiate athletic program in the hopes of taking her one step closer to fulfilling her lifelong dream of being a professional tennis player.
“It’s going to be an entirely new atmosphere,” Dailey says. “(ODA) is small, and I’ve (always) had its support. (South Carolina) is going to be a lot bigger, but tennis will allow me to still have that small atmosphere and support group. I’m just excited to be somewhere else and start fresh.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].