TEMPE, AZ – The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2023 ITA Ann Lebedeff Leadership Award as endowed by Billie Jean King.
Now in its sixth year, the ITA Ann Lebedeff Leadership Award, as endowed by Billie Jean King, was created to honor a recent college graduate who played college tennis, demonstrated excellence in all aspects of being a student-athlete, was a leader on his or her team, and was an influential contributor on his or her college campus and community.
The recipient of the award will have demonstrated grit (i.e. passion and perseverance towards long-term goals), a commitment to social justice and equality, and will have pushed others to be leaders in addition to demonstrating his or her own leadership.
The five finalists selected for this prestigious award based on their distinguished efforts both on and off the courts are: Ivana Corely (Oklahoma), Tilly Rigby (Tufts), Ella Swan (Allegheny), Courtney Swift (Air Force), and Nathan Turtledove (St. Lawrence).
These finalists are looking to join the impressive list of previous winners which includes: Caroline Vincent (Army, 2022), Victoria Flores (Georgia Tech, 2021), Daniel Park (Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, 2020), Andrew “Drew” Atkins (Duquesne, 2019), and Nithya Kanagasegar (Case Western Reserve, 2018).
“College tennis helps develop championship human beings, said ITA Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Timothy Russell. “The ITA supports one of the most robust awards programs in all of college athletics, featuring a number of prominent endowed awards. This Award was created by tennis icon and world leader Billie Jean King in honor of one of the great coaches in the history of college tennis, Ann Lebedeff. This Award represents so much of what is great about our sport and in the world of higher education.”
The five 2023 finalists, who have already submitted personal statements as well as letters of support from coaches, teammates, and professors, will now submit a resume and letter from their institution’s President to be reviewed by the ITA Ann Lebedeff Award Selection Panel. Once determined, the winner will be awarded a post-graduate scholarship, while a $1,000 donation will be made to the award winner’s college tennis program from the ITA.
Ivana Corley | University of Oklahoma | NCAA Division I
Arguably more impressive than the leadership and determination shown on the court during Ivana Corley’s six years at the University of Oklahoma has been her same commitment and passion for being a leader in her community. Beginning her leadership journey through the Student Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) at Oklahoma, Corley has continuously worked at bettering her leadership skills, while simultaneously translating those skills into actions within her community. During Covid-19, Corley and her sister Carmen, combined to organize the Corley Cup in their hometown to provide high school seniors a chance to compete while their final season was canceled. In its first year, the Corley Cup raised over $30,000 for local charities and scholarships for the winners. Now in her final semester at Oklahoma, Corley now serves as the SAAC President, all the while leading the Sooners to record-breaking accomplishments on the court as well.
Tilly Rigby | Tufts University | NCAA Division III
Taking on a leadership role as an underclassman at Tufts University, Tilly Rigby quickly learned how a genuine love for tennis, a team-first attitude, and a high work ethic can help connect a team as they feed off of the energy and attitudes of the leaders on the team. As a Computer Science and Psychology double major, Rigby is constantly faced with the challenges that come with being a student-athlete, putting in countless hours both on the court and in the classroom. Taking from her leadership experience with the tennis team, Rigby has also taken up leadership roles scholastically as she serves as a teaching assistant for a high-level computer engineering class. This past summer, Rigby was selected to be part of the T-TRIPODS DIAMONDS Summer Research Program, an intensive 10-week undergraduate data-science program in which she researched and developed a solution to increase medication adherence and improve clinical care for at-home patients with prescriptions. Facing a season-ending injury this season, Rigby has had to put a pause on her career development on the court, but she has still actively served as a leader on the team, acting as a player-coach for the nationally ranked Jumbos.
Ella Swan | Allegheny College | NCAA Division III
Picking up tennis at a young age, Ella Swan knew that once the time came to take her game to the collegiate level she needed a place that would push her outside her comfort zone in order to allow her to grow in independence and establish her own identity. Choosing to attend and play at Allegheny College, Swan has appreciated the diversity of Allegheny that has contributed to an environment that allows her to grow in self-confidence and self-identity. Here, Swan has focused her studies on psychology, education, and Spanish while simultaneously serving as co-captain on the tennis team for the past three years, an executive member of her school’s Student Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC), and a volunteer for the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania (SOPA). These experiences all come as Swan leads the Allegheny women’s tennis team to new heights on court as well, with the Gators finishing unbeaten in conference play and winning the Presidents’ Athletic Conference Championship this past fall.
Courtney Swift | Air Force Academy | NCAA Division I
From a young age, Courtney Swift has always felt a calling to lead others, but never knew when her moment would come to serve as a leader. When exploring colleges to attend after high school this calling came to Swift as she made the decision to attend the Air Force Academy where she would develop into the leader she is today. Faced with many bumps in the road along the way, Swift was one of the lowest performing freshmen in her squadron and was forced to confront a harsh reality that maybe she was not built to lead as she had envisioned. However, relying on positive female role models around her, Swift quickly buckled down and during her sophomore year took on her first leadership role. Building on these lessons, Swift became the First Sergeant of her squadron during her junior year. In this role, she was in charge of maintaining the health, morale, and wellbeing of all peers in her squadron. By the end of the year, Swift was awarded “First Sergeant of the Semester” and recognized by her Commandant of Cadets (a 1-star general) for her hard work, job performance, and overall achievements as a well-rounded cadet. Now serving as a Squadron Commander, Swift is on track to commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force once her playing days are over where she will have over 100 enlisted airmen serving under her guidance.
Nathan Turtledove | St. Lawrence University | NCAA Division III
Tennis has always been at the forefront of Nathan Turtledove’s life, from picking up the game at the age of ten, becoming one of the youngest certified USTA officials at the age of 15, and winning the USTA Missouri Valley’s Volunteer of the Year award in 2018, he has accomplished more in his teen years than many do in a lifetime around tennis. Looking to take this love to the next level, Turtledove enrolled at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York where he would continue to blossom into the leader that he is today. Joining his school’s Student Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) his freshman year, Turtledove has since risen up the ranks to be named President of the organization, and has held this position for three years running. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Turtledove utilized his position to develop legislation that was subsequently adopted by the NCAA around summer-semester athletic activities. While all of these actions off the court speak loudly of the leader that Turtledove is, on the court he shines just as bright, playing from the No. 1 singles and doubles positions the past two seasons, in addition to leading the team as their captain.