It all started with a little pink, plastic tennis racket.

When she was a little girl, Seattle U senior women’s tennis player Barbara Carey’s father came home with the gift that changed her life.

A big tennis player himself, Carey said her dad taught her the game with that pink racket when she was five, and the game is still something they share today.

“I just love it,” Carey said. “I still have a love for the game, and just getting away from school for a little bit and being able to practice totally clears my head and makes me happy.”

A native of Seattle, Carey said she always had a dream of going to California so she could go somewhere sunny and try something different. She thought that might be where she headed for college.

But then she visited Seattle U.

“I went on my visit here and absolutely loved it,” Carey said. “I was drawn to it because of the Jesuit education and small school aspect. Having that student-to-teacher ratio is important to me.”

It also became clear that she didn’t want to leave her family – the father who had taught her the game and the mother who had gone with her to all her junior tournaments. Her younger twin brothers, who she is also close to, are finishing up their freshmen year at separate colleges. Thank goodness for FaceTime.

“It’s very important to me to be close to my family so they could come watch me and support me,” Carey said. “I love having them as fans.”

For Carey, the game of tennis has changed over the years. Her focus and goals have shifted. She plays for more than herself these days.

She said she loves both the individual aspect of her sport as well as the team aspect that is so important in collegiate tennis. Growing up, she chose which tournaments she wanted to compete in, and it was all individual.

Now, she’s the captain of a team whose motto is to “Work for 10.”

“It’s great to have so many women behind you, and it reminds me that if I’m ever struggling, to work for 10. You can do it and push through it,” Carey said. “We all have each other’s backs, we all support each other, and we care about each other a lot. I love that.”

Carey’s goal prior to coming to Seattle U was to become a Division I student-athlete, and to succeed academically, athletically and socially. After achieving that goal and living it, she said the experience has totally shaped her.

From pushing through 6 a.m. weights, to class, to practice, to travelling, Carey said she’s become more driven to succeed than ever before, and is now more responsible for her actions because she knows the work she’s put in to get to where she is and where she wants to go.

“I’ve always been goal-oriented, but I believe I’ve become more focused on what my actual goals are, and who I want to be not only as an athlete, but as a person, as well,” Carey said.

For Carey, it’s not just about being a DI student-athlete. It’s specifically about being a DI student-athlete at Seattle U.

“Becoming a Division I student-athlete at this school has taught me to be more independent,” Carey said. “I’ve matured so much from this experience.”

Carey hopes her teammates, peers, mentors and supporters remember her long after she’s graduated.

She wants to be remembered for more than one thing. She wants to make sure her impact spans across the board, across all the ways she’s been transformed these past four years.

“I want to be remembered as a hard worker on and off the court,” Carey said. “I want to be remembered as having an impact on my team as well as in the community. That’s who I am. I also want to be remembered as a positive person. I’m a pretty happy person, I smile a lot, am social and like to get to know people. But I think the hard-worker aspect is the most important to me because I’m so driven.”

Again, Carey credits Seattle U for helping shape her, and is excited to see how the person she has become will thrive in future adventures.

“Coming to Seattle U has totally shaped who I am – my morals, my values, who I want to be,” Carey said. “The image of how I want my future to look has become clear. Now, I have new goals that I look forward to achieving. I’ve achieved the one of becoming a DI student-athlete and I’m almost graduating college, and that’s very important to me. Now I can go succeed in other ways.”