DURHAM, N.C.-- Many student-athletes come to Duke because of the high level of athletics and academics that the Blue Devils showcase in Durham, N.C. Chalena Scholl, a 2017 graduate and four-year member of the Duke women's tennis team fits that mold to the tee.
Scholl arrived at Duke as one of the top junior women's tennis players in the nation, but went through much adversity her first two years with injuries and she lost her father, Udo, during her sophomore campaign.
“Throughout my time at Duke I had to deal with a lot,” commented Scholl. “Coming in I had some obstacles and, really, what I'm most proud of is having overcome those. Throughout my freshmen and sophomore years I was injured, had three surgeries and the fact that I was able to come back and continue to improve after going through that is probably what I'm most proud of.”
She was able to lean on her Duke family during this tough time and showed what a special place and family the Blue Devils had.
“I think that was one of the worst downs that I have experienced, but my teammates were there for me,” said Scholl. “Alyssa [Smith] was really incredible. It was really special to see that in a rough time like that, that the people around you really come through and try to be there for you.”
Scholl, a native of Pompano Beach, Fla., was able to get healthy as a junior and collected 22 singles wins and 21 doubles victories on her way to winning the first of two consecutive Charles Hamilton Hargrave most valuable player awards.
“It's really important to make the most of every situation that you're in,” said Scholl. “There's no point in looking back to the past or thinking ‘what if things had been different? What if I hadn't gotten injured?' It's important to make the most of every situation that you're in so that you can continue to improve.”
She built on a strong junior season and then concluded her time at Duke with a career-high 30 singles wins and 25 doubles victories. Scholl also earned All-ACC and was selected Carolina Region Most Improved Senior. She helped lead Duke to a 22-6 overall and 13-1 mark in the ACC, which included a share of the ACC regular season championship. Scholl and the Blue Devils went on to advance to the NCAA final 16.
“I am definitely happy for the fact that both for myself and as a team we've continued to improve the past two years,” commented Scholl. “Over the two previous seasons, we didn't advance to the Sweet Sixteen so that was exciting this year, and then getting to share the regular season title on our senior day with such a special group of people was what I think was really amazing.”
“Chalena has truly been an inspiration to our team and everyone in the Duke tennis family,” said Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth. “To overcome everything that she has and have the year that she had is a testament to her dedication and passion for Duke. In my twenty plus years at Duke I am not sure if I have seen anyone give so much of herself physically, mentally, and emotionally to our program. She is someone that easily and without hesitation could have shut it down and moved on from tennis however her love for the game, her teammates, and Duke were stronger than that. The people at Microsoft are lucky to be getting someone with as much drive as she has.”
With tennis being mostly an individual sport, Scholl thrived over the last four years with the Blue Devils. She was a tremendous teammate, leader and excellent example of a student-athlete on campus.
“It honestly meant the world for me,” Scholl commented about being a part of the Duke team the last four years. “I think it's the best thing that I've gotten out of coming to Duke. Tennis is a very individual sport, especially in junior tennis too, you're playing against some people who at some point you're playing a tournament against, but playing on a team you do things together. You go through some of the biggest ups and biggest downs together and it makes you so close. I've been really lucky to be on a team where I can spend some time and play alongside some of my best friends.”
Scholl graduated May 14 with a degree in computer science along with a minor in visual media studies. She will start her professional career in August as she accepted a software engineer position with Microsoft Azure, which is the cloud department of Microsoft.
“My dad worked with computers, so it's something that I've been around a little bit, but I'd never really coded before I came to Duke,” said Scholl. “I actually didn't take my first computer science class until sophomore fall, so a thank you to Duke to give me something that I'm really passionate about, and I think I'm really lucky to have found that and now do that as well.”
A good friend at Duke, Petra Ronald, actually helped put Scholl in touch with Microsoft as she had recently performed an internship with the company and then one thing led to another. Scholl and Ronald went on to room together this past year and will actually room together in Seattle when they start out there later this summer.
“This might sound cliché, but I think one of the biggest things Duke did for me is broaden my horizons and shown me the different sides of everything I think, like changing perspective, being in such a diverse community, being around a community with people with different thoughts, different ideas, and I think being around that transforms you into a more well-rounded person,” commented Scholl.”
Prior to starting in August, Scholl and fellow teammate Alyssa Smith will travel to Europe.
“I think it's what you make out of it, to some degree,” said Scholl. “I think Duke provides you with the opportunities and the doors, and you have to work hard to get those doors to open and really be able to use them.”
With all that Scholl has gone through over the last four years, how she has persevered and excelled both on the court and in the classroom, we know that Microsoft is very lucky to have her aboard.
“Coming back from those surgeries as well as getting the job at Microsoft was all just kind of wanting to make my dad proud,” commented Scholl.
We all know he is looking down and is extremely proud.