DURHAM, N.C. - Marianne Jodoin’s journey to becoming a member of the Duke women’s tennis program actually began over 14 years ago on the side of an ice rink in Quebec, Canada. It may be even harder to believe that one can learn a second language by playing tennis or that one would sacrifice individual accolades to be a part of something bigger, but Jodoin does not want to focus on that. She is just proud to be a Blue Devil.
Growing up in Varennes, Quebec, Jodoin did not study English in school. In her hometown, the government maintains French as the official language, so the only those children of parents who studied in English in Quebec or in the rest of Canada are allowed to attend an English language elementary or secondary school. So how did Jodoin learn the English language? By travelling around the United States playing tennis.
“I learned everything through travelling,” Jodoin said. “My speaking was good, but my writing needed to catch-up. My biggest mistake is that I will write the way that I speak. As much as I try to edit my papers, I still do not always see the mistakes. That’s why it’s so nice have the resources that we do, it’s so easy to get help. The resources are always there, it’s just about me taking advantage of them.”
Jodoin started playing tennis when she was six in an effort to get her father’s attention. When she was younger, she would sit on the sidelines as her older brother, Vincent, played hockey with her dad. Desperate to have an opportunity to bond with her father, Jodoin picked up a racquetball racquet that she found in the garage one day and started to experiment. Over 14 years and thousands of miles later, Jodoin finds herself playing the sport she loves at one of the top programs in the country.
After graduating from Ecole Georges High School in Quebec, Jodoin travelled 3,000 miles to California, where she spent her freshman and sophomore years at Fresno State. While a Bulldog, Jodoin compiled a perfect 14-0 record in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), and was named a two-time WAC Player of the Year, WAC Freshman of the Year and earned a spot on WAC all-tournament team in singles and doubles in both her freshman and sophomore campaigns. Despite being on the path to becoming one of the best players in Fresno State history, Jodoin could not contain her excitement when thinking about her transition to Durham.
“When I decided to transfer, I just had to look at what I had opportunity-wise between school and tennis, and what each school had to offer,” Jodoin said. “It’s a big change whether or not I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone. I had all my friends, I knew when I was graduating, I knew my classes, but I decided I had to go for the best. Best academically, best tennis-wise, the best combination, so I chose Duke. I just wanted to try to continue the history that they have here.”
As she was considering transferring to Duke, Jodoin received a lot of questions about her role within her new team. At Fresno State, Jodoin was the top player, but at Duke, she might be playing in the fifth or six position. She was asked by some, why would you want to do that?
“I realize that, but for me it’s not about playing number one,” Jodoin commented. “You give me a spot and I’ll do it and just try my best. It doesn’t matter if I’m playing No. 7 or No. 8 or not playing at all. Obviously it’s flattering to have all of those awards, but then after those two years, I was like ‘what else? What else was there to gain?’”
Jodoin then travelled the 2,500 miles from Fresno State to Durham, where she has had an immediate impact on the team, recording a perfect 12-0 singles record in dual matches, helping Duke to an 11-3 record and a No. 7 ranking in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) polls. In addition to being an outstanding member of a top tennis team, Mims, as she is called by teammates, embraces the challenge that Duke poses academically as she pursues her degree in psychology and markets and management studies.
“Marianne has really embraced the team concept,” said head coach Jamie Ashworth. “In her mind, she just wants to be a part of a successful program. Having the personality to give up [being the top player at Fresno State] and know that she’s going to have to fight and compete every day says a lot about her as a person and says a lot about our team too. She is very unselfish and is willing to do whatever she can to help our team be the best that we can be.”
Last spring, the Blue Devils ended the season with a heart wrenching loss to eventual champion Florida, 4-3, in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament, so when the two teams met again in February of 2013, Jodoin entered the match without the same history with Florida that some of her teammates had. But when the Blue Devils swept second-ranked Florida for the first time in program history, it was Jodoin who clinched the match for Duke, something that she has done three times for the squad this season.
“I was so proud to be a part of it,” Jodoin explained. “On every court, I knew everyone was there. Yeah, I was the last one to finish the match, but I was just so happy to be a part of it. It’s one thing to see the result on paper, but it’s so much better to be a part of it. Being able to have good results like that early in the season, I don’t think we could’ve been happier.”
When asked about her teammates, Jodoin cannot contain her excitement. A smile creeps across her face, and her voice quickens. Jodoin loves being a Blue Devil and enjoys every single day she gets to spend with her teammates. The bond was evident when teammate Mary Clayton recently found out that she received a job offer to work at Goldman Sachs in New York. The rest of the team was just as excited as Clayton was, because at Duke, that’s just the way the program works.
“I think we share the same goals tennis-wise and school-wise, we just want to be successful in everything we do,” Jodoin said. “We understand that we’re going to have bad days, but we are also going to have great days, and we just want to share those days together. We have this connection and we are just always there together.”