For senior tennis player Jackson Varney, college graduation is not the end. In fact, it is only the beginning.
Varney has traveled a long journey to reach Moscow and the Idaho menâ€™s tennis team. He was born in East Melbourne, Australia, to parents Davila and Christine Varney. He later spent his childhood in Canbarra with his four siblings.
Varney left Australia for the United States to pursue a collegiate tennis career. His skills initially brought him to Prairie View A&M in Texas.
Varney was awarded Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year honors at Prairie View. The standout athlete went 5-0 at the SWAC championships in the No.1 singles position.
The following year, Varney transferred to the University of Idaho.
Varney said he was surprised at the level of competitiveness of the Vandal team when he arrived in Moscow.
â€œHere, people were a lot more into progression,â€ said Varney. â€œThere was a lot more determination, a lot more drive, and a lot more focus on success in the sport. It felt like I was in my element.â€
Varney finished the 2014 season with a 16-20 record in singles and 15-11 record in doubles. He primarily played in the No. 2 and 3 singles positions during his sophomore year. In the Big Sky postseason tournament, Varney beat his Northern Arizona opponent 6-4, 6-0 to win the conference championship.
Varney furthered his play as an upperclassman in 2015 and 2016. In singles, he went 15-6, seeing the majority of his time at the No. 3 position.
He began the season with singles and doubles victories in Idahoâ€™s sweep of UC Riverside. He then suffered a tough defeat against Portland, but rebounded by defeating a number of conference and nonconference opponents.
Varney said he has grown close to his teammates during his senior season. He said he has connected with fellow senior Odon Barta to establish leadership roles on the team.
Varney said he values a pleasant atmosphere for all of the players on the team. The senior can often be heard shouting support to his teammates across the courts during weekend competitions.
â€œI love hanging out with the boys socially,â€ Varney said. â€œI never try to be above anyone. It doesnâ€™t matter if theyâ€™re a freshman or a sophomore, I like everyone to feel comfortable out there.â€
Varney has seen two coaches while at his time at Idaho. After Jeff Beamanâ€™s departure, assistant Abid Akbar took over coaching responsibilities this year. Akbar said he has seen his team improve greatly throughout the year due to the ability of the seniors to step up in crucial situations.
â€œ(Varney) has done a great job of working hard and leading by example in the weight room, out on the court and in the classroom as well,â€ Akbar said. â€œItâ€™s really important for the team culture for our seniors to be role models.â€
Varney said he is not remorseful about ending his senior season and collegiate career.
â€œWhen I got here, I had doubts on what I was going to do after,â€ Varney said. â€œI found my love for the sport again and my drive for wanting to go pro after I leave. Being here has definitely meant a lot to me.â€
Brandon Hill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @brandonmtnhill