Christiaan Lee-Daigle featured in The Charlotte Observer
From The Charlotte Observer:
Strong summer propels tennis player
By Corey Inscoe
Christiaan Lee-Daigle never visited Queens University of Charlotte before deciding to play college tennis there. The Ontario, Canada, native didn't visit any schools, for that matter.
"I had looked at different schools; their culture did not reflect what I wanted to go into as an individual," said Lee-Daigle. "Tennis, of course, was a big part, but I feel like if I wasn't going to enjoy where I am, I'm not going to be happy there."
Queens tennis coach Brett Karpman, also a Canadian who played tennis at Queens from 2002-04, convinced Lee-Daigle that Charlotte was the right place for him.
"Charlotte's beautiful," said Lee-Daigle. "I don't see myself being anywhere else now that I'm here."
The Queens senior has made the most of his time in Charlotte, winning three straight conference championships and the U.S. Tennis Association/Intercollegiate Tennis Association Division II Southeast Regional and finishing fourth at the National Small College Championships in October.
Lee-Daigle was a freshman in Karpman's first recruiting class at Queens in 2008. Karpman said Lee-Daigle was flying under the radar, but he saw potential in the young player. Lee-Daigle was the No. 3 player for the Royals at first but moved up to No. 1 midway through his freshman year and has stayed there since.
Playing at Queens was a transition for Lee-Daigle. He started playing at 4 years old with his dad, Francois, a former tennis professional in Canada, and started entering tournaments at 10 years old. He played mostly indoors in Canada, where usually only two months out of the year were warm enough to play outside.
In Charlotte, where he could play outside year-round, Lee-Daigle had to get used to the slower outdoor game.
"Being able to play tennis all year long is a big bonus here," said Lee-Daigle. "Outdoors I can just take my time and hit the crap out of the ball."
As he adjusted to the outdoor game, Lee-Daigle also put more muscle on his 6-foot-3 frame with Karpman's strength and conditioning program at Queens. That, combined with his skill and speed on the court, led him to a Conference Carolinas championship and conference freshman of the year honors.
"Christiaan is blessed with a world-class serve, but ... his movement for a big guy, the ground strokes, the volleys, he's just a well-rounded player," said Karpman. "The kid doesn't have a weakness."
Lee-Daigle has continued to improve, winning the conference championship his sophomore and junior years and being named conference player of the year last year. Before Lee-Daigle, no tennis player had won two conference championships.
He was also ranked as the No. 27 Division II player in the nation after his junior season.
His improvement has paralleled the improvement of the program overall in the five years since Karpman came to the school from an assistant coaching position at UNC Wilmington.
Last year, the women's team was a perfect 17-0 in the regular season.
Karpman, who was named conference coach of the year the last two years, also led the men's team to their first team conference championship in the spring and first appearance in the NCAA tournament.
"Everything these boys did, they did it for the first time," said Karpman. "It's one thing to join a great program and continue that tradition. It's another thing to do it on your own and be the ones that turn a new tradition for that school."
Queens is building a new tennis facility at its Tyvola Road athletic complex, said Karpman.
Karpman said that playing at Division I schools is not as important for tennis players. They can play similar level players and get the same experience at a Division II school like Queens.
"The whole lifestyle here is so much more enjoyable on the players. The reduced travel, the priorities of academics first, all these things," he said. "Outside of tennis it's different, but our level of tennis, we compete at a Division I level."
Lee-Daigle had a successful summer coming into his senior year, representing Canada in the World University Games in China in August, where he and doubles partner Phil Anderson, whom he'd never met before, lost in the quarterfinal round.
"That was crazy," said Lee-Daigle about the World University Games. "Words can really not describe what an experience that was. It ended up being like the Olympics."
He also made the singles finals of two ITA tournaments, playing against some of the top junior tennis players in the country, and won the doubles draw at the ITA event at the University of Georgia.
"What he did against the top American juniors this summer was even more impressive," said Karpman. "Those are the elite American juniors and Christiaan beat pretty much everyone."
In September, Lee-Daigle won the USTA/ITA Division II Southeast Regional Championship, an event he had struggled in before.
He is only the second player from Conference Carolinas to win the Southeast Regional.
The win qualified him for the USTA/ITA National Small College Championships in Mobile, Ala., in October.
Lee-Daigle won his first match in the eight-player bracket but lost in the semifinals and consolation, finishing fourth overall at the national championships.
His success in the summer tournaments has Lee-Daigle excited about his senior season of team tennis at Queens, which starts in the spring.
"Now it's all about just having fun," he said. "It's great to do well; it's great to go to nationals, but I'm just glad I'm enjoying my senior year. I think that's the most important thing right now."
Lee-Daigle, a business marketing major, said he would like to play professionally after college, if he is still healthy and playing well. Karpman said he thinks there's a good chance he could make it professionally.
"His passion for the game is what's going to allow him to play after college," said Karpman. "That internal drive, that internal passion. A lot of people have the talent, a lot of people have this, but his passion for the game and his drive will allow him to be successful in the game after college."
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