Our Stories

Making memories at Willamette University on and off the tennis court

A tennis player never forgets the details of her most memorable match, be it a win or a loss. For Jamie Slonaker ’11, this match occurred her junior year against conference rival Lewis and Clark.

“I was the last person playing, the team score was tied and I was the deciding match,” she recalls.

For three grueling hours, Slonaker and her opponent battled back and forth. When Slonaker’s final serve spun by her opponent, she was so relieved to have won that she began to cry.

“There was so much pressure, and there was such a release when I won,” she says. “I don’t think I’ve ever had that kind of experience since.”


Memories like this come flooding back as tennis team captains Emily Bee ’12 and Shannon Palmer ’12 end their four years as Willamette student-athletes.

To this day, Bee almost tears up when talking about Slonaker’s victory. She was not part of the traveling team that day, but her teammates kept her updated on every nerve-wracking point.

“I was on the phone with a teammate when I heard, ‘Jamie won!’ And then I broke into tears,” Bee says.

Though tennis is often considered an individual sport, the tennis team has been a valuable support system for Bee and Palmer. As senior captains, they have led their team by example — excelling in school, their sport and other activities.

“As captain, I was more conscientious of trying to be a role model on and off the court,” Palmer says. “I tried to think about what's best for the team rather than just myself.”

A Balancing Act

Willamette women’s tennis coach Becky Roberts relies on her seniors to serve as leaders in practices and match play.

“Emily set the tone of hard work in practices and giving all you have in the matches. Shannon set the tone as a true competitor with the desire to win in matches,” Roberts says. “It's been exciting to watch Shannon and Emily improve as players and grow as individuals.”

Although they spent much of their time traveling and practicing, Bee and Palmer were also devoted to academics and campus life.

“Playing college tennis takes a lot of discipline,” says Palmer, who majored in exercise science. “Sometimes it requires sacrifices, but I know that school and tennis are the commitments I made, and I put those things above everything else.”

Palmer participated in the NCAA Division III National Championships in doubles in 2011 as the second Willamette women’s tennis player to qualify for nationals. She has been ranked as high as third in doubles and 19th in singles in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) West Region, and she received the ITA Scholar-Athlete award in 2011. Palmer also has worked as an athletic trainer, anatomy teaching assistant and WEMS responder. She most recently worked as an international peer coach for the American Studies Program.

Bee, a biology major, was awarded a Carson grant in 2011 for summer research. She has interned at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and has worked as a student researcher for the Sinnhuber Aquatic Research Laboratory. Bee was a representative on the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, and has served on the executive team of the Asian Student Association, Tri Beta National Biological Honor Society and Kaneko Commons.

Being a student-athlete has taught Bee how to prioritize and keep organized.

“I tried to get all my schoolwork done during the day, and when I was on the court, I focused only on tennis,” she says. “I probably lost a lot of sleep being so busy, but overall it was worth it.”

A Life Sport

Now that they have graduated, Palmer and Bee know they will miss being part of the Willamette tennis team.

“Graduating is bittersweet. I feel ready to move on, but at the same time, I love Willamette and all the people that I've met. I’ve grown so much as a person from freshman to senior year,” Palmer says.

Palmer plans to teach English in Japan through the JET Program, a foreign language education program that aims to increase mutual understanding between the people of Japan and other nations. She will then pursue a graduate degree in a health-related field.

Bee plans to work for a year before attending optometry school.

Though they’re finished playing collegiate tennis, Bee and Palmer say graduating will not stop them from playing the sport they love.

“Without tennis, I wouldn't be the same person I am today,” Bee says. “Tennis will always be a part of my life, even if I'm not playing competitively.”

Story by Katie Huber '13, politics major