Westlake senior Julia Dunbar has not only excelled on the tennis court, but also in the classroom and with her many other extracurricular activities.
Siena College, a Division I university located in upstate New York, has a sterling reputation for both academics and athletics.
So it’s only fitting that Dunbar and Siena would find each other, and Dunbar made it official last Wednesday by signing her national letter of intent.
“I was looking for a school that offered a combination of the student-athlete mentality,” Dunbar said Monday. “Being a student is my No. 1 focus in college, so I was looking for a place where I can thrive in that aspect. I’m looking to go the route, as either a biology or psychology major, and I wanted to find a place that offered great programs in that field that also looked great when I’m looking at graduate schools.
“Also, along those lines, I wanted a school that could offer the opportunity to continue my tennis career at the collegiate level, and that’s been something I’ve looked forward to for a long time. I really like their coach and I believe he can help me pursue my goals for my college tennis career.”
In addition to her athletic scholarship, Dunbar is also a Siena College Presidential Scholar.
Dunbar is the third Ohioan to join the Saints’ tennis team over the past two years, joining current freshmen Ali Garrity (Medina) and Mitsuki Fukamachi (Mayfield).
“That did a little bit of influence for me because I’ve known Ali and Mitsuki for many years,” she said. “It’s nice to have a little bit of home when you’re far away. They told me a lot about Siena and they gave me a great feel for it, and when I took my visit there, I wound up falling in love with the college.”
Siena women’s tennis coach Andy Christodoulou had high words of praise for Dunbar.
“Julia is a well-conditioned, all-court player who comes off as a baseliner,” Christodoulou said. “Her effective groundstrokes provide an abundance of opportunities for net play and her strong net play lends itself for an aggressive style of doubles play.”
Dunbar was named to the High Honor Roll at Westlake, earning the Kiwanis Club High Honor Roll Distinction Award and the Presidential Academic Achievement Award. She served as co-president of Westlake’s National Art Honor Society and the National Honor Society.
“Julia took her search for the right fit for her academic and tennis home for her college years very seriously,” said Westlake girls tennis coach Ralph Dunbar, Julia’s father. “As a student, the smaller class sizes and friendly advisors made her feel very comfortable, and she felt they would help her grow as an individual and set her up well for graduate school.
“The athletic program is comprehensive and offers just the right competitive level of play, a structured fitness program to stay in shape and caring and hardworking team members. She is very excited to be part of the Siena community.”
Dunbar made her oral commitment to Siena a day before this year’s Division I district tournament began. She used her decision to fuel her and partner Lyndsey Golick to finish in the top six and qualify for one of the spots at this year’s state tournament.
“It’s definitely a relief, just because I know how hard I worked personally and how hard my parents’ worked to help me along the way,” she said. “It’s a relief because we know we made it that far.”
A Silver Racquet Award recipient from the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association, Dunbar was a first-team All-Southwestern Conference selection all four years and was named the SWC’s Most Valuable Player this fall. She was a state tennis tournament qualifier three times during her four years at Westlake — with her team as a freshman, individually as a sophomore and as half of a doubles team as a senior — and was a team captain for her final two seasons. Dunbar has also been an active participant in the USTA Junior Tennis Circuit for the past nine years.
Off the court, Dunbar has been a Special Needs Student Assistant all four years of high school and a Peer Tutor/Peer Mediator.
She was a photographer for the Green and White Westlake student newspaper and is a member of the Math Club, Project Love and
Dunbar is also an active member of her hometown community, serving as West Shore special needs summer camp volunteer and Relay for Life event coordinator. She also helped develop and instruct tennis at a special needs summer tennis program for young adults this past summer, and acted as a USTA assistant tournament director.
“I definitely want to be a prominent player in their lineup,” Dunbar said. “My personal goal is to be in the top 1-4 in singles and in the top 1-2 in doubles.
“I’m really excited to extend my college tennis career and I’m really looking forward to what Siena College has in store for my future. I’m just really excited overall.”