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The sooner the better
Quinnipiac athletics has been experiencing what Dick Vitale might call the year of the “Diaper Dandies.”
Freshman phenoms have emerged in almost every sport this year–Kelly Babstock, Dylan Webster and the Faust triplets (a.k.a. “RUN ABC”) just to name a few.
But there’s a name missing from that list.
Meet Juliet Labarthe. The dandy of the hardcourts.
Labarthe quickly proved she could play at the collegiate level by winning Northeast Conference Rookie of the Week the first week of play in September. Through her first eleven collegiate matches, her record reads a nearly spotless 10-1.
She further made her case as one of the best freshmen in the nation after winning her fourth straight rookie of the week award and seventh overall.
Her seven nominations set a new NEC record, breaking teammate Rachel Cantor’s record of six from last season.
“When I won the first week, I didn’t really know about the award,” said Labarthe. “I was humbled by it and continued to play hard.”
Quinnipiac head coach Mike Quitko has a reputation of adjusting his freshmen to the collegiate level quickly, and Labarthe is no different. The last three NEC Rookie of the Year honors have gone to Quinnipiac players, most recently to Cantor.
Labarthe hopes to extend that streak to four.
As of last week, her record stood at 34-10, just six wins shy of Mary Wilson’s freshman record. She has been voted NEC Player of the Week three times this year.
Unlike many collegiate athletes, Labarthe didn’t begin to play tennis until the age of 10.
“There was a tennis camp in Oklahoma City that year and I didn’t know what to do with my summer so I joined the tennis camp and really enjoyed it,” she said. “My dad then got me very serious about it and put me in more and more tournaments as I continued getting better.”
Before tennis, the Oklahoma native was passionate about ballet and piano.
“When I was 13, it began to get very busy as each one wanted so much out of me,” Labarthe said. “My parents said I couldn’t spread myself too thin and had to choose one if I wanted to be really good. So I chose tennis.”
Labarthe transferred high schools after sophomore year and joined the tennis team at Heritage Hall High School. At Heritage, Labarthe was a two-time state champion and one time runner-up in three years of playing. She was also named Oklahoma’s player of the year in 2010 after going undefeated and not dropping a single game in the state tournament.
The toughest challenge the phenom has faced is adjusting to being part of a team.
“In high school, I was just playing for myself. But Coach [Quitko] has taught me about what it’s like to be on a team and playing for your teammates instead of yourself.”
Just like the competition, Labarthe has quickly adjusted to the team.
“I have a lot of support from all the girls on my team. It’s fun going to tournaments, and hotels, and dinners,” Labarthe said. “You have the tennis, which is serious, but being off the court is a whole different part of the team.”
“I think Julie fits right in and is the type of kid that plays here at Quinnipiac,” Quitko said. “She’s goal-oriented just like the way a lot of the kids here are.”
Not only does the former Oklahoma player of the year dominate her singles competition, but she also reigns champ of the hard court with her partner in crime Sarah Viebrock. The two hold down the No. 1 spot for the team in doubles.
“She is hilarious,” Labarthe said. “We work really well in the court and know how to calm each other down and focus. I love her and the way she plays.”
Viebrock had similar words for Labarthe.
“Julie makes it easy to be her doubles partner,” said Viebrock. “She always seems to know exactly where I am on the court and we work together as if we are one person.
“I’m extremely proud of Julie’s success this year. Julie gives it her all in every match and that has become evident through her success. She had some very big wins and has proven that for the next three years she is a force to be reckoned with.”
Quitko also recognized how she always puts in 110 percent.
“I think she has a great work ethic,” said Quitko. “She played hurt [Wednesday] and I think that shows her dedication to her team.”
Photo credit: Charlotte Greene