On the tennis court, Jordan Strickland is a focused, intense, yet level-headed player for Western Carolina University. Nothing seems to rattle the junior.
Perhaps it’s because of the way Strickland approaches her life. At three days old, she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis – a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time.
But that hasn’t stopped Strickland from becoming one of the Catamounts’ top tennis players. Strickland is coming off a sophomore season in which she posted a 12-7 record in singles play, including an 11-3 mark at the No. 2 spot.
That’s after a freshman season where Strickland finished 13-12 in singles, playing the final 12 matches as No. 1. Paired with fellow freshman and best friend Lauren McCall for doubles, they became the first doubles tandem in WCU history to be named to the all- Southern Conference second team after a 10-3 season, including 5-1 in conference play.
“Jordan has made many strides since her freshman year, most notably in her fitness and confidence,” WCU women’s tennis coach Michaela Kissell-Eddins said. “Freshman year, she really proved to herself that she belongs playing high in our lineup and winning. She carried that confidence into this year, and it really showed.”
Being active helps those with CF remain healthy. As a kid, Strickland’s family didn’t talk about CF much. She simply took her medicine and played with other kids. Strickland competed in a variety of sports before her grandmother introduced her to tennis at age 7. Other than coaches, the only one who knew about her condition was McCall, her best friend since childhood.
“Growing up, I’ve had to learn how to do things more on my own and take care of myself,” Strickland said.
The life expectancy of those with CF in the U.S. has increased to 37.5 years, with many living much longer. With the discovery of new treatments and medications, that number is expected to continue increasing. According to verywell.com, in 1962 the average life expectancy of a child with CF was 10 years. It’s now predicted that children born with CF in the 2000s will survive into their 50s.
Kissell-Eddins didn’t let Strickland’s CF stop her from recruiting her. Strickland was a four-star recruit and ranked as high as 160 nationally out of Cary’s Panther Creek High School. She was ranked the No. 3 recruit in North Carolina.
“Obviously, cystic fibrosis is a serious condition, so we are always concerned with making sure we are doing what’s in her best interest. From the start, we were assured that playing tennis and working out are actually really beneficial to her health,” Kissell-Eddins said. “In terms of recruiting her, we never doubted for a second that we wanted her on our team, or that she could overcome any struggles she has to achieve her goals.”
Strickland, a computer information systems major, is particularly interested in data analytics and would like to chart data as a means to enhance athletic performance. After college, Strickland plans to remain involved in tennis recreationally.