A Winning Pair
The Garrison sisters help lead women’s tennis to victory
Last May, Summer Garrison, a first-year student at Lewis & Clark, qualified for the NCAA Division III Women’s Tennis Championships, the first to do so in Pioneer history. Already an All-Northwest Conference First-Team selection, she made it to the quarterfinals of the division’s top tournament. Not surprisingly, Summer ended the season with All-American honors.
What may be more surprising was her age at the time: Summer was just 16.
While still in high school in California, she decided to complete two advanced placement courses over winter break to graduate early and enroll at Lewis & Clark in time for spring semester. She joined the Pioneer women’s tennis team in January 2015.
Summer wasted no time in proving her mettle on the court. “I happened to beat a couple of top seniors and narrowly got into the NCAA tournament,” she says. “It was like a rookie getting a wild card into Wimbledon and winning a couple rounds.” In most cases, tennis players need time to build up their ranking, and they usually don’t make the NCAA tournament until their junior or senior year.
But Summer benefited from immediate support once she arrived on Palatine Hill. Aurora Garrison, her sister, who was then a junior, was already a member of the women’s tennis team. Aurora had chosen Lewis & Clark because of its academic reputation, the depth of its tennis coaching staff, and its Portland location. Enrolling at age 17, Aurora was named team captain and helped the Pios earn their first national ranking.
“Aurora was the very first top recruit that I had when I got here. She started the mission to win a conference title,” says tennis head coach Patrick Dreves, whose team won Lewis & Clark’s first-ever Northwest Conference championship this spring after a 12-0 regular season conference record. “Summer and Aurora are amazing students and big difference makers. They’ve been a delight to coach.”
Oddly enough, neither sister was pegged to be the first in the family to play collegiate tennis. Early on, it looked like their brother, Gavin, would be the family tennis standout, playing at a top tennis club in Southern California during his youth (his life took a different turn, however, and now he’s a producer for the Animal Planet series Whale Wars). It soon became evident that his sisters shared a love of tennis, and over the years, they worked hard to hone their physical and mental game.
The Garrison sisters’ early dedication to the sport has clearly paid off. With their help, Lewis & Clark’s women’s tennis program has thrived. Both sisters have been nationally ranked this season, including as a doubles pair.
The storyline makes it sound like the sisters have been inseparable since they picked up their racquets, but that hasn’t been the case. “High school was rough at some points,” says Aurora. “It’s been easier as we’ve gotten older.”
Summer adds, “We didn’t become good friends until this past year, and it’s been really cool. We were just normal sisters who had very separate lives, but in the past eight months or so, we have developed into more.”
Their ability to find common ground and grow closer has increased their doubles success. Like their sisterly relationship, the whole Lewis & Clark tennis team has continued to grow.
To Aurora and Summer, tennis will always be a family sport. Their parents, Gregg and Rosanna, and brother Gavin have provided invaluable support for the mentally taxing nature of the game. Fortunately for the sisters, they are now part of another solid family composed of their Lewis & Clark teammates and coaches. And according to the rankings and the team’s NCAA Championship tournament bid in May, it is one of the best families in the nation.