Lindsay Graff ’15’s choice was one most people would love to have: Should she become a professional tennis player or take an exciting job offer from Delta Airlines? That she faced this decision as she neared the end of her senior year was a credit to her ability to balance tennis and academics.
Early in her Princeton career Graff, now a two-time All-Ivy singles player, decided to make athletics a high priority, a difficult choice for someone taking the rigorous course load of a mechanical and aerospace engineering major.
“I found that my priority was honestly the tennis court, so I was never going to sacrifice it in favor of my academic work,” she said. “I think it really helped my academic work as well.”
Discipline in one, it turned out, led to discipline in the other. Graff found help on both fronts in the form of Zack McCourt ’15, a star player on the men’s tennis team and a fellow Fort Lauderdale native who also happens to be an MAE major. The two friends became frequent study partners. “I don’t think anybody else really can understand tennis-specific athletic balance and academic balance,” McCourt said.
Finding that her academic work often forced her to give up some sleep, Graff learned to frontload, staying up late to finish assignments early in the week so that she could get rest as her weekend matches drew closer. Graff and McCourt found that they worked well together. That led them to make a serious commitment.
“One day we were walking and I said to him, ‘I think we have to do our thesis together ... given that we’ve done all our academic coursework together,’” Graff said. McCourt agreed that they should “start as a team, end as a team.”
As their late-April deadline approached, the two were busy at work on their project, which aims to harness sound waves like the ones made by blowing over a soda bottle as an alternative source of energy. Both also were playing well on the court. Graff went 13–7 in the regular season, winning in two sets as her team beat Cornell April 19 to clinch the Ivy League title for the second straight year. McCourt won a crucial singles match April 19 to push his team past Cornell, giving the Princeton men a 4–3 Ivy record.
Graff and her teammates earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament, which began May 8 — her last competitive event. After weighing her career options, she chose to take the job at Delta, where she’ll analyze where the airline flies, which planes it deploys, and how it prices flights.