Tennis is 'All in the Family' for Joelle Kissell
March 10, 2014
RALEIGH, N.C. - For as long as she can remember, Joelle Kissell has always had a tennis racket close by.
The NC State senior started getting acquainted with the sport at the most tender of ages, when she was just strong enough to hold a racket in her tiny, little hands. Her mom, Kim Kissell, most likely put it there. From that point forward, tennis was all in the family.
Kim, a former college player at Florida Southern and head coach of the women’s tennis team at Seton Hill College near the family’s hometown of Hostetter, Pa., is now the matriarch of a tennis family.
Husband Mark works at the Seton Hill tennis facility while their only son, Chad, a high school senior, and two other daughters, Stacia and Michaela, are tennis players as well. Stacia, currently a sophomore on the women’s team at Western Carolina University is the youngest of the three sisters, while Michaela the current interim head coach at the University of Pittsburgh, and former standout at Marshall University and Miami (Fla.), is the oldest.
Needless to say, the Kissell family knows a thing or two about tennis.
Coming out of high school, Joelle was rated a five-star tennis recruit at Latrobe High School as the No. 46 ranked player in the nation. During the recruiting process, she received a call from NC State head coach Hans Olsen concerning her interest in joining the Wolfpack tennis team.
“The summer before my senior year, I was looking at different colleges,” she recalled. “I was invited to come to visit NC State. I ended up coming down, loved the school and the girls on the team.”
As a true freshman, in the extremely competitive ACC, Kissell excelled. She compiled a 20-5 record in singles play and an 11-4 record in doubles. She was victorious in eight matches against ACC opponents, including two ranked opponents. She also helped the Pack advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
But even with the success and accolades, Kissell remarked the transition from high school was dramatic.
“As a freshman, I didn’t know how to balance academics and athletics,” she said. “The coaches and support staff teach you those things. Study halls were required and they don’t let you fall behind.”
Since those early beginnings, Kissell has come a long way. She’s blossomed into NC State’s No. 1 singles player the past three seasons, earning a national singles ranking as high as No. 19 last year.
Last year, she became just the second player in school history to be selected to the NCAA Singles Championship two times and became the third player in program history to be named to the All-ACC team twice, and only the second to do it in back-to-back seasons.
She is also a top scholar athlete, boasting one of the ten best GPA’s amongst Wolfpack student-athletes.
Furthermore, she is just five wins away from setting the all-time NC State record for singles victories with 60. Kissell currently has 55 wins, putting her in third-place behind Julia Roach (56) and current record-holder Jenny Sell’s total of 59 victories that has stood for the past 21 years.
“The record is a little bit in the back of my mind,” she noted recently. “But I’m trying to just take one match at a time.”
Even with all the individual accomplishments and lasting success that will earmark Kissell as one of the best NC State women’s tennis players of all-time, her most fond memories are those shared with her teammates.
“The team is very close to each other,” she emphasized. “It is tremendous. We do everything together. We are playing for something bigger – not just yourself – but the team. We have very good potential. We have so much talent. It will be interesting to see how far we can go.”
And her best memories at State are numerous and electric. She fondly remembers the road trips, the laughter, and the camaraderie. One of her favorites is last year when the team qualified for the NCAA Championships.
“I remember watching the selection show,” Kissell said. “Everyone went crazy!”
It’s not surprising that someone who comes from such a big, close-knit family would apply those same sentiments to her teammates and coaches. For Kissell, whether it’s at home in Pennsylvania or with her NC State teammates, it’s always all in the family.
By George Cox