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chloevolleyI first met Chloe Lee six years ago during the Coleman Vision Championships. I was warming up on a back court at Tanoan, preparing to embarrass myself in the tournament’s Pro Am. Becky Lee, a Tennis Mom who would never dare act like one, showed up on an adjacent court with a small girl in tow.
“This is Chloe,” was all Becky said.   
The girl’s chin barely reached above the net. One look at her smack a tennis ball caused me to call out, “I have a feeling I’m going to be writing about Chloe one day.”
Becky laughed and Chloe, who didn’t know how to respond, offered a shy smile.  
Sure enough, three years later I interviewed Chloe for the Albuquerque Journal at her home base, the Tennis Club of Albuquerque. Before we got started, I watched her drill with TCA pro David Ochotorena. Chloe had just turned 14 and was still shy, but clearly had made leaps in tennis. I don’t recall much about the interview except that she said she liked vampires.
I followed Chloe’s progress as she finished runner-up in the New Mexico 5A girls singles as an Albuquerque High School freshman and then won the title the next two years.
Fierce determination and the concentration of a bomb detonator mark her game.  
On November 13, Chloe signed a National Letter of Intent to play Division I tennis at Rutgers University. The following day I returned to TCA once more to visit with her.  
Chloe is all grown up now. In fact, she’s five-feet, eight inches, taller than her mom and edging  up on her dad, Jud Lee.   
What I noticed most about her on this occasion was her poise. She looks you in the eye and speaks in complete sentences. Only when she says “totally” and “awesome,” do you realize she’s still a teenager.
Chloe is also extraordinarily humble. She’s not sure of her tennis ranking (No. 3 in the Southwest Section in 18 girls, No. 150 nationally) and you have to pull some to get her to reveal her academic achievements. (4.5 GPA, third in her class). She is the only junior I‘ve ever spotted reading a book during a tournament.  
New Mexico to New Jersey. How did Rutgers find you way out here in the desert?
I’m assuming the coach saw my profile on tennisrecruiting.com. The Rutgers coach, Ben Bucca, reached out and called me two or three times late last spring. I had heard of Rutgers, but I didn’t know much about it. In July, the coach and his assistant, Hilary Ritchie, came to watch me at the Clay Court Nationals in Memphis. I liked them both a lot.

What did the Rutgers coach say about the way you play?  
He told me he’ll focus on an all-court game.  He had watched me play doubles in Memphis and he was complimentary of my net play. He’s going to try to get me to go to the net more.
What other schools were on your list?
I made official visits to Rutgers, Elon, which is in North Carolina, and Kansas.  Unofficially, I visited UNM, Columbia and Brown.  I was very interested in Brown, but toward the end the coach left me hanging.  He was very vague when I pressed him. Brown doesn’t offer scholarships. The thing about Rutgers is that it’ll be free. Seventy-five percent of my scholarship there is athletic and 25 percent is academic. It’s a full-ride, except for books.
So your visit to Rutgers sealed the deal?
Rutgers flew me there in October and paid for everything. I loved the campus and I felt like I really got along well with the team members. Plus, Rutgers was always straight forward with me. Even before I went to visit, Rutgers said the spot was mine if I wanted it. With some other schools, I never really knew where I stood. At Rutgers, it was obvious they did not want me as a back-up.  I wasn’t going to be their second choice; I was their first choice. Two of the girls on the team texted me all excited when they learned I was coming.
Next year Rutgers will join the Big 10. Suddenly, you’ll be playing schools like Michigan and Illinois. What do you think of that?
It’s going to be a real challenge but it’s going to help me improve.  All those schools in the Big 10 are really big. Rutgers isn’t small; it has 50,000 students. Big 10 schools get kids from all over. Most of the Rutgers team is from New Jersey or nearby. There are two girls from Texas on the team, but no international players.
What will you study at Rutgers?
Biomedical technology, biomedical engineering.
Are you going to be on a pre-med track?
At this point I’m not really interested being a medical doctor. I’m thinking more in the pharmaceutical end of medicine, perhaps in research. I applied to three schools at Rutgers - arts and sciences, earth sciences and the school of pharmacy. I got into all three.
What classes are you taking this year?
AP statistics, AP economics, AP calculus 2, AP English, AP physics.
How old were you when you started playing tennis?
I was 7.  I’ve always trained with Och, though I’ve always hit with my parents. They’re both 4.5 players. Och is definitely an important part of my tennis life.  I’ll probably hit with him when I come back here on visits.
Do you have a nickname?
Ocho calls me “Dead”
[Laughs].  My last name is Lee.
What was the best piece of tennis advice you received from Och?
He’s always stressed to me to have fun.  If you’re not having fun, it’s not worth doing, he says.  My parents have said the same thing.
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