By Dan Johnson
ITA Director of Communications & Marketing
TEMPE, AZ – Giving time and energy to others comes naturally to Jessica Emoto.
A senior and team captain on the women’s tennis team at Tabor College, Emoto has helped run local high school tennis tournaments, organized the Social Justice Week and Anti-Human Trafficking 5K Run, just to name some of the many volunteer efforts she’s led.
“Volunteering gives you a better sense of perspective,” said Emoto, who is from Gresham, Oregon.
Perhaps, then, it’s not a surprise when you discover that Emoto is a pre-med/biology major. As she awaits word on acceptance to medical school, she’s started to daydream a little on what her future holds after graduation.
“I want to become a doctor,” said Emoto. “I’m really interested in general practice or working in pediatrics.”
In 2017, Emoto received one of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s highest honors, as she was named the NAIA Women’s ITA/Arthur Ashe Leadership & Sportsmanship Award national recipient. She, along with the nine other national award honorees, spent a weekend in New York City, highlighted by volunteering during the annual Arthur Ashe Kids Day, held the weekend before the start of the US Open.
“I was so excited to go,” said Emoto, who is a pre-med/biology major. “I had never been to New York or the US Open, so being able to be in (Arthur Ashe Stadium) was really exciting. I’d never seen that volume of kids that were interested in tennis before; it was a lot of fun to be a part of that event.”
It’s not just off the courts where Emoto shines. A three-time ITA Central Regional champion and participant in the ITA National Small College Championships (also known as the ITA Oracle Cup), Emoto is also a two-time KCAC Player of the Year and a NAIA First Team All-American.
Emoto began her tennis journey at 9-years-old, following in her mother and older sister’s footsteps. She said that college tennis was always the goal.
“When I was younger, I put a lot of pressure on myself to reach that point,” said Emoto. “Now that I’m here and almost at the end, I’m so grateful I found the right school; I’ve gained a lot of confidence in my game and have had fun.”
The academics-athletics balance drew Emoto towards the NAIA, and Tabor College, specifically.
“I’m glad that I chose NAIA, because I can really balance school, tennis and my social life,” said Emoto. “Being in this division has been perfect for what I’ve wanted to do and to prosper in college.”
Emoto’s coach at Tabor College, John Ruder, had high praise for his senior captain.
“In my opinion, Jessica’s the best all-around athlete I’ve coached in my 35 years,” said Ruder. “She’s the kind of person that if you’re raising a daughter, you want your daughter to grow up to be. She’s very positive, focused and works extremely hard at everything she does. She’ll go down in the history books of our school as the best tennis player we’ve ever had.”