Lowell (Mass.) Sun: Women's Tennis Alumna Elly McKenna '22 Leaves Lasting Legacy

Lowell (Mass.) Sun: Women's Tennis Alumna Elly McKenna '22 Leaves Lasting Legacy

This story originally appeared in the Lowell (Mass.) Sun. Also view a PDF on SMCAthletics.com here.


By Christopher Hurley

Her collegiate tennis career may have come to an end, but Elly McKenna continues to court success in her respective arena.

The Lowell native and recent Saint Michael's College graduate wrapped up a solid senior season, while picking up her fair share of postseason awards and accolades with the Purple Knights.

McKenna, along with Winchester cross country runner James Downs, were both presented with the Roger F. Keleher Award during a senior ceremony in Alliot Student Center, May 12. The duo drew the Department of Athletics' oldest annual award, which has been earned by outstanding scholar-athletes of the College's graduating class who maintain high scholastic averages since 1954.

"I actually wasn't anticipating that," said McKenna, 22. "It caught me off guard, but being a student-athlete has always come first for me. Academics has always been a big priority of mine, so to be recognized like that was super special."

A Springfield native and member of the Class of 1915, Keleher's dedication to both academic and athletic achievement has been the model by which all other Saint Michael's student-athletes have been measured. The honor was the biggest among an amazing array of awards the Lowell Catholic alum collected over the past few months.

A May grad, McKenna was among seven Purple Knights to earn an ITA Scholar-Athlete distinction, sporting a minimum 3.5 grade-point average during the school year. It marked her third time earning the accolade. McKenna toted a 3.97 GPA as a double major in media studies, journalism & digital arts and Spanish, while minoring in business administration.

In addition, she earned a spot on three academic honor societies, including Delta Epsilon Sigma, Kappa Tau Alpha, and Phi Beta Kappa.

Each society holds a special meaning for the Lowell Catholic graduate.

"Phi Betta Kappa was a really big one because it's the oldest and most prestigious academic honor society in the nation," said McKenna, noting its liberal arts and science component. "That's recognized for a breadth of courses. You can have a 4.0, but if you only stayed on your specific course of studies, you wouldn't be inducted. So that was great."

"Delta Epsilon Sigma is the National Catholic School Honor Society," she added. "That was nice to be recognized, because I attended student mass every week and lectured in stages that were important to me. Kappa Tau Alpha is a journalism and mass communication society, which was cool because that's a major of mine. My best friend and I were the only two graduating seniors inducted into that. It's the top 10 percent of seniors."

When she wasn't hitting the books in the classroom, McKenna was making her mark on the tennis court. Competing in her first full season with the Saint Michael's women's tennis squad in two years, she led the Purple Knights in doubles wins with three, while holding down a regular role in the singles lineup for the first time, winning four times in the No. 4 position. The second-year captain also paced the team in total victories with seven. She even earned singles and doubles victories twice in the same match against SUNY Plattsburgh, Sept. 8, and at Saint Anselm, Oct. 9.

"It was challenging in a sense that this was our first season back since the pandemic," said McKenna. "I think we had a great camaraderie going."

One exciting new facet of playing doubles came with adapting to her teammates various strengths and playing off them.

"It was interesting figuring out who I played well with," she said. "What side am I going to receive the serve? Figuring all that earlier in the season. For the rest of it we had our doubles partners set, but it was so fun. By no means am I happy to be done with my college career, where else am I going to play that kind of tennis again?"

Since graduation, McKenna has been fueling her competitive fire playing some USTA tennis matches with Saint Michael's doubles partner Abby Edelmann.

"I'm definitely trying to keep up with skills and practices," she said. "But it was so awesome and such a great senior year."

She leaves Saint Michaels with nothing but wonderful memories.

"The past four years just went by so quickly," said McKenna. "I guess with the pandemic and everything, to have had what really felt like a normal, fun and competitive senior year, I couldn't have asked for a better time. I'm very thankful for all Saint Michael's coaches, professors and all the wonderful people over there that have supported me along the way."

As for the future, McKenna's schedule appears booked. After a highly successful spring 2021 season studying abroad as an English teaching assistant at Universidad de Sevilla in Spain, she is heading back for another trek this fall. McKenna returns to Spain with a job as an English language and culture assistant at a primary school in Madrid. The contract runs from September to June.

The only question that remains: Will she be packing a tennis racket?

"My mom asked me the same question the other day," McKenna said with a laugh. "If I can fit it in my suitcase, 100 percent. If not that's something I've got money for over there."