The thought of one day playing for Ohio State consumes the dreams and aspirations of many young athletes growing up in central Ohio.
But for OSU No. 1 singles star Kirsten Flower, that dream did not exist until after her collegiate tennis career had already begun.
A native of Upper Arlington, Ohio, Flower was rated a five-star recruit and the No. 1 player in the state by tennisrecruiting.net coming out of high school.
As the daughter of a former OSU men’s tennis star and great-granddaughter of a past football Buckeye, it seemed only natural that Flower would follow her family’s footsteps and don scarlet and gray.
However, after graduation she decided to carve her own path and found navy and gold more to her liking.
“After high school I just wanted to go experience a different part of the country,” Flower said. “Georgia Tech had one of the best programs in the country at the time, so that was a big draw.”
Despite her OSU ties, Flower headed off to Atlanta to start her collegiate career as a Yellow Jacket rather than a Buckeye. The decision proved to be a good one as she continued the success she had attained at the high school level on to the courts of one of the nation’s elite programs.
Amidst all the success, including multiple national titles and a top 25 ranking among singles player across the country, Flower began to miss the city she had grown up in and the university she had grown up loving.
“I realized how much I cared for Ohio State,” Flower said. “Growing up and always being a Buckeye fan, I think I kind of took [it] for granted.”
Following her sophomore season at Tech, Flower made the decision to return to the place she had called home for so long and transferred to OSU in 2008.
“I wouldn’t give up my years at Georgia Tech for anything,” Flower said, “but at the same time I got to come home and be a Buckeye so I think I’ve gotten the best of both worlds.”
In her move from the ACC to the Big Ten, Flower didn’t miss a beat. Compiling 37 victories between doubles matches and singles matches in her first year with the team, she became the first OSU women’s tennis player since 2003 to earn All-Big Ten honors.
Along with achieving the honor for the first time at OSU in six years, Flower’s accomplishment made her and her father, James, the first father-daughter combination to each achieve the accolade in conference history.
Including sharing the same award, Flower believes that the whole experience of playing the same sport as her father at his alma mater has been pretty special.
“It’s funny, we have the same letter jacket and it’s definitely a common bond,” Flower said. “I go out to the outdoor courts to play and his name is up there for being All-Big Ten and I see that stuff and am just reminded that we have a pretty cool thing going here.”
Now with her senior season and college career coming to a close, Flower maintains that if she had to do it over again she wouldn’t do it any differently, but she is glad to be finishing her career as a Buckeye.
“I have a special place in my heart for this school and so it’s nice that I get to graduate as a Buckeye,” Flower said. “My last college tennis points will be as a Buckeye and it’s just special because it’s in my family.”
When this chapter of her life finally closes and the next one begins, Flower hopes to continue her tennis career playing on the professional circuit, something that her coach doesn’t see as too lofty of a goal.
“She needs to be a little more aggressive to play at the pro level and I think she is working on that so she can play with really anyone,” said women’s tennis coach Chuck Merzbacher. “It’d be great if she goes out and tries to play pro.”