Arroyo Grande High girls tennis standout Sophie Whittle put pen to paper on her long-awaited college decision Wednesday, signing a National Letter of Intent to play collegiately at Gonzaga at a ceremony at James Gym.
Surrounded by family, friends, coaches, teammates and a miniature plush bulldog, Whittle inked her commitment to the real Bulldogs after also considering Loyola Marymount, UC Santa Barbara, Cal Poly and UC Davis.
“It feels great just because I don’t have any stress anymore,” Whittle said after the signing. “Now that I know (where I’m going), I can just focus on getting ready.”
Whittle said it’s a full-ride scholarship, and the instant relationship she forged with head coach D.J. Gurule, assistant Caroline Lilley and her future teammates played a major role.
“The school itself was really beautiful, but mostly what stuck out (on my visit) was the tennis program,” she said. “The coaches were really enthusiastic and they just really want you to get better as a person on and off the court.”
Whittle finishes her high school career as one of the most accomplished prep tennis players in San Luis Obispo County. She sports an unblemished 121-0 league record to go along with four PAC 8 championships — eight if you count team titles — and four league MVP honors.
“Sophie’s been the epitome of what I would consider a perfectly balanced player,” Arroyo Grande coach Lori Hollister said. “She is just focused on the right things in life, and people are just drawn to her for her integrity, her character, her fight, her sportsmanship and her leadership.”
Whittle helped the Eagles to the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 title game two years in a row, including last year’s championship season when she swept her sets 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 to help Arroyo Grande top Murrieta Valley 77-74 in games in the finale.
The Eagles were bumped up to Division 2 this year and made it to the quarterfinals, where they fell in a tiebreaker to top-seeded Valencia 81-73.
Whittle won her sets 6-3, 6-0, 6-1 to increase her career record to 229-8, including 56-0 this season.
She’ll have a chance to add to those numbers at the Southern Section individual tournament beginning Nov. 24.
“I spent three hours writing a letter of recommendation for her this morning, and it was very hard for me to get through it,” Hollister said. “She’s very close to my heart. It’ll be fun to watch her move along, but it’ll be hard to let her go.”