Senior battles adversity, discovers new love for tennis

<p>Senior Lindsey Kayati has battled symptoms of epilepsy since she was 13 years old. She is 39-35 in singles action in her four years at Rutgers.</p>

Senior Lindsey Kayati has battled symptoms of epilepsy since she was 13 years old. She is 39-35 in singles action in her four years at Rutgers.

In the small town of Monroeville, New Jersey, where senior Lindsey Kayati grew up, tee ball and cheerleading were the only two extracurricular activities for elementary school children.

Usually the boys played tee ball and the girls cheered, but Kayati had no interest in joining her fellow females on the sidelines.

“My mom asked why I didn’t want to cheer with my friends,” Kayati said. “I told her I don’t want to cheer for other people, I want them to be cheering for me.”

So the young Kayati took to the diamond with the boys and kept playing baseball in the spring, and soon, basketball in the winter with much success until middle school, when her parents wanted her to make a choice.

She felt the obvious decision was tennis, a sport that her entire family enjoyed, including her grandfather who taught her the game, as well as her cousin who played for Michigan State.

First picking up a racquet at three years old, Kayati played for fun early on, but at around age 11, she started to enter competitive tournaments.

From then until her senior year of high school, the New Jersey native traveled constantly in the Middle States Region to play in sectional tournaments.

“I played all year round for seven straight years,” Kayati said. “It was really a grind, and at times I wanted to quit, but my love for the game pushed me through.”

It was that passion for tennis that helped her overcome the loneliness that is apparent in the sport, especially during the years of her youth.

“In other sports, you have teams and coaches cheering you on, or at least there to talk to,” Kayati said. “But when I was making trips to random cities like Erie, Pennsylvania, to play tennis, the only person there with me was my dad.”

Despite this solitude, Kayati excelled at almost every level she participated in, reaching national exhibitions and eventually earning a number of college offers.

When it came time to choose a school, Rutgers made perfect sense.

The teenager found a place that was near home, had great coaches and personified that team camaraderie that she longed for.

“I’m a home body and didn’t want to go too far, but at the same time, Rutgers has a real college feel in New Brunswick and I saw that in all my visits,” Kayati said. “As far as tennis goes, I loved the coaches and when watching a few matches, I saw so much chemistry between the players.”

One of the coaches that had a heavy influence on Kayati attending Rutgers was head coach Benjamin Bucca.

After meeting her as a recruit, Bucca immediately realized that Kayati’s humor would play a vital part in helping his teams of the future.

“Lindsey leads by example and has remained a positive influence during her four years,” Bucca said. “She has also won a national award and we’re very proud of her career.”

In 2015, Kayati won the ITA/Cissie Leary Award for Sportsmanship, which goes to a Division I women's player who displays inspiring dedication and commitment to her team.

Additionally, the award recognizes an obstacle the student-athlete must overcome to play collegiate tennis.

Kayati was diagnosed with epilepsy, a disease of the brain causing severe seizures, when she was 13 years old.

Despite combating symptoms of the disorder in everyday life as well as on the court, Kayati has never let epilepsy hinder her drive to be the best student-athlete she could be.

Kayati will graduate in a few weeks from a university with approximately six times as many students as her hometown has people, another reason she is grateful to have been a Scarlet Knight.

“Rutgers tennis has done so much for me and has taken me in so many interesting directions,” Kayati said. “I’ve made great friends, gotten a chance to travel around the country and most importantly, I’ve gained a new appreciation to the sport I love.”

For updates on the Rutgers tennis team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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