BOWLING GREEN — When Nikki Chiricosta came to Bowling Green State University, she was known as “Christine’s sister.”
That’s because Christine Chiricosta was a senior when Nikki was a freshman, and Christine was in the process of rewriting the BGSU tennis record books.
Now Nikki is a senior, and she has made a name for herself with the Falcons. As she and her teammates prepare for the Mid-American Conference tournament hosted by Miami starting today, Chiricosta looks to add to her school records for tennis victories.
She has 19 wins playing first singles for the Falcons and 22 more wins in doubles to lead BG in both categories. She enters this weekend with 190 career victories and 96 singles wins, both school records.
And in both cases, she broke marks set by her sister.
“[Breaking those records] really resonated with me,” Nikki Chiricosta admitted. “I tried to use it as motivation, to work hard and accomplish all my goals.
“I didn’t want to tarnish her legacy.”
Chiricosta received several awards this week. On Monday she received the Falcon Medal of Honor, the highest award given by the BG athletics department. The award is based on a combination of athletics, leadership, scholarship, and service.
Two days later, the MAC named her the league’s player of the year and an All-MAC first team choice.
The honors come as no surprise to BG tennis coach Penny Dean.
“Who else but Nikki would be out practicing her serve on her own, during the last week of her senior season, when she found out about her award?” Dean said. “That’s why she is where she is.”
It didn’t take long for Falcon tennis fans to notice differences between Nikki Chiricosta and her sister.
“We are very different — at least on the tennis court,” Nikki Chiricosta said. “She’s mentally tough and very calm. She knows how to carry herself.
“When you watch me, you’ll notice my fire and intensity. I had to learn her mental game.”
The Chiricostas are a tennis-playing family. Parents Rick and Shiela Chiricosta met while both played at the University of Toledo, and oldest son Matt played at Allegheny.
“It was so great that I had a family of tennis teachers,” Nikki Chiricosta said. “I watched college tennis long before I played it, so I knew what I had to do to be ready.”
Nikki Chiricosta has won at least 40 combined singles and doubles matches in all four years of her BG career. She was named All-MAC first team as a sophomore before earning second team all-league honors last season.
Nikki Chiricosta admitted that, as she came closer to breaking her sisters records, the pressure became a little more intense.
“I knew all the numbers, and as I came closer I lost three or four matches in a row, all in three sets — and I think some of that [pressure] was a factor,” she admitted. “But then I realized that eventually I would win one more match and set the record, and that took the pressure off.
“Then when I set the record in a match against Western Michigan, a team BG had lost to 38 straight times before beating the last two season, that made it especially sweet.”
Nikki Chiricosta said she had no regrets following in her sister’s footsteps at BG.
OTHER AWARDS: Men’s soccer player Brandon Silva joined Chiricosta in receiving the Falcon Medal of Honor at a banquet on Monday.
Football standout BooBoo Gates and track All-American Brooke Plegar were the school’s male and female athlete of the year, while baseball player Cody Apthorpe and volleyball player Lindsey Butterfield were the school’s senior scholar-athletes.
Women’s basketball player Deborah Hoekstra and football player Chris Polhman were the school’s junior scholar-athletes of the year.