Hayes ready for future after dull Big Ten finish

Mark Heller

MADISON, Wis. — If the Gophers women’s tennis team doesn’t advance to the NCAA Midwest Regionals, senior Jennifer Hayes has played her last match for Minnesota.
Sort of.
In the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament Friday, Hayes and doubles partner Jana Hrdinova had their match stopped when the doubles teams of Nora Sauska/Alice Rangsithienchai and Tarah Elkins/Tammy Wang lost their matches. If it was her last match, it is probably not the way Hayes envisioned her Gophers career ending.
But rather than looking back, Hayes is looking forward. She has her next couple of years all planned out.
“I’m going to Sydney (Australia) this summer for about eight months, which is where I’ll actually graduate,” said the native of Fond du Lac, Wis. “I’ll continue playing and trying to qualify for tournaments and rankings weekly. I’m also hoping to get into medical school at Stanford when I come back to the States.”
She said she has a couple of connections in Sydney, which could be crucial, as very few foreign players qualify for tournaments.
Hayes eventually would like to live in the United States, but also spend time working as a doctor in underdeveloped countries. Before that, however, she and Alice Rangsithienchai would like to play in France during the summer of 1999.
“It’ll be tough, ’cause you may only make a couple of hundred dollars a week playing if you’re lucky, but I’ve been saving money forever,” Hayes said. “If I’m desperate, I know a few people in Sydney I can stay with.”
When asked what she’ll miss about college tennis, Hayes said, “I won’t miss all the time it takes up and being told when to be somewhere all the time, but I will miss the fun and all the people.”
She also liked the jokes and pranks teammates played, including one that occurred over spring break last year near the border of Texas and New Mexico. When players in one cabin were sleeping, some of the others littered their room and wrote with lipstick on the windows.
Her parents, Elizabeth and Robert, made the hour-and-a-half drive from Fond du Lac and were on hand in Madison. Hayes said she loves her parents, but is ready for a little independence.
“I’m 21 and I don’t really mind living with my parents, but I want to get out of the Midwest,” Hayes said. “It’s boring.”
Full house
Players and coaches weren’t the only ones to witness Tarah Elkins’ thrilling comeback. Almost the entire building began to gather around the court, including the entire Iowa team. Parents, fans and spectators filled the bleachers above the court.
Among those looking down were John and Linda Elkins, Tarah’s parents.
“It’s an 11-hour drive from Birmingham, Mich., to Minnesota,” Linda Elkins said. “But it was only eight hours to Madison.”
The Elkins’ drove to Minneapolis in mid-April to watch the Gophers’ matches against Wisconsin and Northwestern. The Sunday match against Northwestern started an hour and a half late because of weather relocation. By the time the match was over, it was after 3 p.m.
John Elkins said they had to stop at Tarah’s house before hitting the road again, meaning they didn’t get back to Michigan until at least 3 a.m.
“My parents make the trip a few times each season,” Tarah said. “Earlier this year, they took a week off, came out (to Minnesota) to watch, then they went out to the Black Hills for a few days, and came back in the next weekend to watch. They love to travel.”
Bad moon rising
Despite the quick exit from the tournament and the possibility of having their season end ahead of schedule, the team tried to remain upbeat on the bus ride home. Early on, many players tried homework and naps, sharing the floor and seats.
For the last two hours, the team was led by Tammy Wang, Alice Rangsithienchai and Kim Simonsen in a thunderous exhibition of ’80s music — everything from Pat Benatar to Madonna, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” to “Bust a Move.” Jana Hrdinova added her own opera-style to the songs.
But in the middle of all the singing came a sudden shriek.
A conversion van in the next lane riding alongside the bus contained a man in the back with his pants down at his knees, displaying his stark-naked butt.
Although she tried to turn the other cheek, it turned out to be a two-moon weekend for Elkins, who lost the deciding match Friday to Michigan’s Sora Moon.
Coach Martin Novak only gave a quick smile and went back to reading a book.