PORTSMOUTH — Following one’s dreams is vital — after all, life is only lived once.
Portsmouth High School graduate and multi-year tennis letterwinner Sarah Lemaster is doing just that over the next four years of her life, as Lemaster will not only pursue a career in occupational therapy — but will continue her tennis dreams at Shawnee State as well.
For Lemaster, the opportunity to pursue her dreams of playing tennis at the collegiate level is one that she’s looking forward to — especially considering the fact that she’ll be staying not only in her home county, but in her home community in doing so.
“I have always tried to improve my skills for tennis,” Lemaster said. “Staying in my home county means that I have the support of my family and friends close by.”
Throughout the course of her career at Portsmouth, Lemaster consistently maintained standing as a top-three singles player for the Lady Trojans — moving from No. 3 singles as a sophomore to the No. 2 singles position as a junior, and finally, the top singles slot on the unit as a senior.
“I was always challenged by players from the other schools within our region,” Lemaster said. “It helped me learn how to play against people with different styles.”
During this time, Lemaster also performed in Portsmouth’s Show Choir, Key Club and track and field extra-curriculars — all while also qualifying for the school’s National Honor Society.
She was later named as a 2020 all-Ohio Valley Conference Track and Field honoree, as a strong gesture from the OVC honoring each of its seniors as all-OVC talents.
“I really love singing,” Lemaster said. “I was considering taking music as my major, but chose to pursue occupational therapy. The tasks that I performed with National Honor Society, Key Club and Show Choir taught me to be more responsible and care for the needs of others.”
Her time at Portsmouth, however, wasn’t without its struggles.
Amy Keating — who had coached Lemaster during her freshman and sophomore seasons and had successfully served as a staple of the Portsmouth City School District as a tennis coach, Mock Trial and Quiz Bowl coach, a yearbook advisor and an English teacher for the system — had fought cancer in a courageous fashion, even continuing to teach and coach while undergoing treatments.
However, on Feb. 5, 2019, Keating lost that battle over a month-and-a-half prior to the start of Lemaster’s junior season of tennis.
Lemaster donated to Sierra’s Haven in honor of Keating’s memory — as Keating — who was 49 when she passed, was an admirer of pets.
Keating’s famous saying, ‘You Belong Here,’ is one that Lemaster cherishes along with the rest of the Portsmouth community.
“(Amy) Keating was a very special person to me,” Lemaster said. “I continue to practice as though she were watching me. I loved and admired her strength. I try to play tennis in a way that she would be proud of me. She taught me the rules of the game and the fundamentals of tennis. I had taken tennis lessons at the local tennis club (Portsmouth Tennis Academy) but I hadn’t learned how the game was played. She was so instrumental in my development not only as a tennis player, but as a person.”
With her mentor still alive and well in memory, Lemaster wants to continue to honor Keating’s memory — by showing how strong Portsmouth is with her own mind and tennis ability.
She wants to move through SSU’s three-plus-two occupational therapy program while obtaining a regular, rotational position in Shawnee State’s lineup.
“I want to earn an occupational therapy license,” Lemaster said. “I hope to prove that I can compete at the collegiate level in tennis.”
For more information on SSU Bears Athletics, visit www.ssubears.com or visit the Twitter and Facebook pages at https://twitter.com/SSUBears and https://www.facebook.com/SSUBears. For more information on how to join the SSU Bear Club, visit https://givetossu.com/bear-club.