Cochrane takes path less traveled

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — The path taken by Jaci Cochrane has never been the easy one when it comes to her tennis career.

Cochrane, who won both state singles and doubles titles while competing for Fort Dodge Senior High, is currently in her second season at Rutgers University.

She opened her season along with the rest of the Scarlet Knights at the Brown Invitational, going 2-1 in doubles matches and 1-2 in singles play.

“From the results of the tournament, we are very excited about this year,” she said. “We all got to compete individually for the first time in a while and, based on our results, we are in for an awesome year with an awesome team. I was super happy with it.”

After capturing her singles crown as a freshman, Cochrane moved to Kansas City to train year-round in the sport. She eventually returned to FDSH and won the doubles title with Beth Murman.

“I think my biggest difference coming pack prep-wise was having a different mindset and also knowing what to expect,” said Cochrane, one of three returning sophomores back for the Scarlet Knights. “Coming in as a freshman, you don’t really know what your coaches and trainers are going to be expecting of you. I also had a lot of things to take away from last spring to work on this summer in preparation for my sophomore year.

“Knowing what I needed to improve on over the summer and my fitness expectations really helped me in preparing to get back to New Jersey.”

Cochrane had a team-high 17 wins in doubles last year, posting a 17-6 mark overall, that included a 5-2 tournament record. In singles, she was 13-16 overall and 8-2 in tourney play.

She also earned a “B” flight doubles title with Farris Cunningham at the Navy Blue and Gold Invitational. Cunningham was a senior last year.

“From my perspective, last year went amazing,” Cochrane said. “I had the opportunity to come in as a freshman and have an impact on a team hungry to make its presence known in the conference.

“We actually got the first Rutgers tennis Big Ten win in history against Penn State, which was surreal. The win against Penn State was probably my best moment because we consider them our rival school, which just made it all that more special.

“We ended up getting another win against Wisconsin and those were huge first steps for Rutgers women’s tennis.”

Coming out of high school, Cochrane earned a four-star level ranking and was regarded as the second-best recruit in the state. Still, none of that could prepare it for the grind of competing in the Big Ten.

“The extremely high-level that everything is expected to be performed at,” she said. “The Big Ten is on a level of its own, and competing against the best in the country day in and day out was a huge wake-up call.

“Not only was this taking place on the court, but it was happening in the gym, the classroom and in our every day lives. The experience has been both incredible and humbling.”

For this season, Cochrane has set herself up to improve her league play and “just set the bar higher and keep climbing.”

“I have a goal of getting more conference wins under my belt,” she added, “and have this same goal to win as a team, as well.”

While she may be several states away, Cochrane keeps a piece of home with her every day.

“Representing Fort Dodge, and even just Iowa itself, in the East is really cool,” she said. “I actually get a lot of questions and comments when I wear my Fort Dodge, Iowa clothing around campus because people are really intrigued to know more about small-town Iowa.

“I love where I come from and love bragging about it even more.”

Cochrane is a history and political science double-major with plans on becoming a lawyer like her father, Stu, and brother, Nick.

Rutgers will compete once again at the Navy Invitational next weekend along with tournament action at the ITA Regional Championships and Buffalo Invitational.