El Campo senior Kayleigh Gardner in front of her family in the Ricebird athletic office signs her national letter of intent to play tennis at Texas Lutheran University last Wednesday. Pictured are (l-r) Kirk Socha, Brenda Socha, Jim Gardner and Jill Gardner.


El Campo senior Kayleigh Gardner will continue her athletic career on the college level signing her national letter of intent to play tennis for Texas Lutheran University.

Gardner, hoping to be a nurse after college, was going to TLU regardless and was already accepted into the school before she thought about continuing her tennis career.

“I’ve been playing (tennis) for eight years,” Gardner said. “I like playing, it’s what I love to do. But definitely wasn’t expecting to play in college that all happened very fast.”

A slight nudge from El Campo tennis coach Alfred Pavlu helped her realize she had the skills to play in college.

“He just kind of said the TLU level of players is my level of player and, I never really thought that before because I have never seen that level of play before,” Gardner said. “I understand now and if he thinks that, I trust him.”

After one visit to check out the tennis program, she was ready to commit and join the TLU team.

Gardner has been a varsity tennis player for three years. In the fall, she plays both singles and doubles. During spring tennis she’s done either singles or doubles depending on the year. At college, she expects to do the same during the fall and spring, and is open to playing on mixed teams as well.

“It is really exciting and I’m really looking forward to it because I do really love tennis,” Gardner said.

Gardner will have some familiar faces around when she steps on the court next season. Her boyfriend’s brother Matthew Stephenson, a former Wharton tennis player will also be on the team.

The tennis signing is the first from El Campo since Katie Herrmann in 2011 when she also went to play for TLU.

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