THE NEXT STAGE: Central Mountain’s Jolee McCluskey to continue tennis career in college

Central Mountain High School senior Jolee McCluskey (center) signs her letter of intent to continue her tennis career at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. Sitting alongside Jolee are parents Joseph and Wendy McCluskey. Standing left to right is Jolee’s private coach John Dorner, CMHS tennis coach Pete Wert and CM athletic director George Bidwell. (The Express/Shareik Flowers)

MILL HALL — When Jolee McCluskey began playing tennis in seventh grade, she didn’t know how to properly hold a racket. In practice, tennis balls would fly past her but she never got discouraged.

Although she was a stranger to the sport, she quickly fell in love with it. In high school, she began to play more competitively — and competing alongside her sisters, Quinn and Kendall, pushed her to become the athlete she is today.

On February 27, McCluskey signed her letter-of-intent to continue her tennis career at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, NY. And she’s anxious to showcase her talent on a bigger stage.

“[I’m excited to be] competing at the higher level,” McCluskey said. “I’m excited to play matches and play other girls who’ve been training, who I’m not used to playing.”

Jolee is following the footsteps of older sister Quinn ,who’s a member of the East Stroudsburg University tennis team. Her younger sister Kendall is currently on the CMHS tennis team, but tennis wasn’t always the tradition for the three sisters.

“We tried other sports, then all of a sudden we got into tennis and we just continued throughout the years with it,” McCluskey expalined.

For McCluskey’s entire varsity career, she was CM’s No. 1 player in singles — a prestigious ranking that pits her against other elite players from neighboring schools. In 2015, she became the first freshman in CMHS history to win a No. 1 singles match.

After tallying just a 13-23 record as an underclassman, she finished her junior season at 16-3 with first team PHAC All-Star recognition. She replicated this success her senior year and finished with a 16-2 mark, and a 42 consecutive game-winning streak.

McCluskey sharpened her skills under the watchful eyes of CM tennis coach Pete Wert, and private coach John Dorner of the West Branch Tennis Club.

“I would definitely like to thank my coaches, Mr. Wert and John Dorner,” McCluskey said of the two who helped pave the way for her. “I work a lot over the summer and in the winter with John Dorner. We’re always at the club, or at courts in the summer working, and training and doing better.”

McCluskey’s hard work paid off. She was named team captain her sophomore season and held the position into her senior year. Her career with her teammates is a treasure she cherishes.

“I made a lot of good memories with them over the four years,” McCluskey said. “It’ll be rough leaving them.”

McCluskey leaves behind a strong legacy. Not only was she a professional on the court, but behind the scenes she matured into a mentor for the younger members of the team.

“She’s done so many outstanding things for the program,” Central Mountain tennis coach Pete Wert said. “She cared about the other players on the team, she worked hard and set a really good example on-and-off [the court].”

“In the classroom, she does terrific,” Wert added. “In all aspects of her life, she’s been a really good role model for all the girls on the team .”

McCluskey plans on majoring in Information Technology and Web Science, with a concentration in Cyber Security when she attends Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in the fall.

The selection process was challenging for her. But after meeting with various coaches and touring different colleges, she decided to enroll in a school that balanced its athletics with education.

“It came down to a few schools, but I picked the one that was best academically for me, as well as the best tennis team for me,” McCluskey said.

After graduation, she hopes to land a job in the cyber security field working for a government agency.