As a senior in her final year of play, Elizabeth Carpenter is at the No. 1 spot in the lineup, leading the Badgers into what is anticipated to be a very successful year for the University of Wisconsin’s women’s tennis team.However, a recent injury to the No. 2 player Alaina Trgovich has forced Carpenter to step up her game and fill the hole that was left when Trgovich tore her ACL, leaving her inactive.“Since we have a player that just went down with an injury, she’s going to have to fill that role all year,” coach Brian Fleishman said. “I think she’s ready to fill that void.”Trgovich is also doing the best she can to help Carpenter despite her injury. She knows that there is a lot she can do besides actually practicing with Carpenter.“I feel bad that I let her down and I can’t play with her,” said Trgovich, “I just try to motivate her and keep her focused, and I still want her to have a great last year.”So far, the team has been very successful, winning their last two matches 7-0 against Eastern Michigan and Northern Illinois with Carpenter in the lead spot. Nevertheless, playing without the team’s No. 2 player has made things a challenge for the senior.“It’s difficult to lose one of our best players, but I try to keep it off my mind.” Carpenter said of losing Trgovich. “It doesn’t change how I play, I still try to go out and do the best that I can.”Carpenter — who plays No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles — provides support and experience for her team, and they all look to her for encouragement. She provides a framework for the team to model themselves after and Fleishman hasn’t overlooked her importance to the team both on and off the court.“She doesn’t really say a lot but she leads by example and works hard,” Fleishman said. “She shows everybody that she’s going to give the same effort every day, and on game day she has the most energy and everyone looks to her for a visual role model.”Carpenter led by example in last Friday’s win over the Northern Illinois Huskies. Carpenter won both of her singles sets 6-0 and finished 8-1 with her doubles partner, Angela Chupa.“She had a lot of energy this past Friday, and she knows she needs to step up a little bit more than she already has.” Trgovich said. “I think she did a really good job.”Although Carpenter is currently the top player on the UW roster, she hasn’t always been as successful as of late. According to Fleishman, hard work and her competitive spirit brought her to where she is today.“When I first came here, she couldn’t keep within two or three balls to play, and she’s come a long way in the year and a half since I’ve been coaching,” Fleishman said. “She’s got the biggest heart on the team and has the greatest work ethic.”Her love of tennis developed at a young age and grew into the passion she feels for the sport today. As a kid, she loved the challenge of taking on an opponent and playing her heart out.“When I was growing up, I played mostly individual and I liked going out and competing,” Carpenter said. “But now it’s a team, and I love having someone to play for and the team atmosphere out on the courts.”Now that Carpenter is a senior, she can look back over her collegiate career and learn from it. She has developed the skills she needs and knows how to prepare for each match and what works best for her.“I treat each practice as a game and give everything I have each time I go out on the court,” Carpenter said. “I live by the motto how you practice today is how you play each game and that helps me prepare for each match. Now that I’m a senior, I don’t take matches for granted and play at my best against each opponent.”
Faith. Family. Football.That is the motto of USC’s team, promoted strongly by their leader, head coach Clay Helton. Helton assumed the head-coaching role two days after the Trojans’ convincing 40-21 win over UCLA on Nov. 28.The motto has since been embraced by the team and is emblazoned on black hoodies that can frequently be seen around campus.Helton said in an interview with the Daily Trojan that selling kids on the team’s motto is one of his biggest recruiting tools.The words that Helton now lives by were taught to him by the same man who gave him his start as a coach: his father, Kim Helton.“My dad taught me there’s not a lot of time out there to be able to do other things, so concern yourself with three things: Faith, family and football, and that’s what I believe in,” Helton said.His coaching career began immediately following graduation. Helton spent two years at Duke, one as a graduate assistant and one as the running backs coach in 1996 but then moved to his alma mater and the school his father coached at — University of Houston, where he was the running backs coach for three seasons.“It’s not too many times you get to work for your best friend in life and your hero and that’s what my dad is to me,” Helton said. “I’ve learned so many lessons from him, not only as a young guy, but as a coach, and now as a guy that’s 43 years old.”FaithReligion is a big part of the football culture at USC, and it can be witnessed every time the team runs out of the Coliseum on Saturday. They all head for the end zone where many players take a knee and take a moment to pray.Religion is in the locker room, on the field and in tattoos.“We believe that no matter what religion you believe in, if you want to practice your faith, practice your faith and we support you,” Helton said.FamilyThe two-faced second moniker holds especially true for Helton, whose coaching career has been so intricately tied to his family. Getting a start from his father gave Helton the opportunity to develop not just his knowledge of Xs and Os, but develop his character as well.“He’s taught me how to be a husband, a father, a football coach and a leader of men,” Helton said of his father. “I’m very blessed to have a guy that isn’t only my best friend but also happens to be a really good football coach too.”Helton said he still talks to his dad two or three times a week.Helton’s parents live in Florida acting as caretakers for his grandmother, who is in her 90s. They take an annual trip to visit their son’s colleges though, and now that Helton has hired on his brother, Tyson Helton, as quarterbacks and passing game coordinator, Helton is hoping that his parents will be able to spend more time in California.Tyson Helton also played for his father at Houston before becoming the special teams coach at Hawaii. Most recently, he was the offensive coordinator at Western Kentucky.“I’ve always known how talented a coach he is, but now to see it up close and personal is great,” Helton said. “To bring that dynamic to your football team, not only a guy that you love, but also an ultra-talented coach it makes you very proud as a head coach. I’m mad that he has more hair than me, and he’s a lot skinnier than me.”Helton has been able to surround himself with those he loves, no one more than his high school sweetheart, Angela Helton. Helton and his wife have quite the love story.Though Helton says he no longer looks the part, he was once the quarterback at Clements High in Sugar Land, Texas. Angela Helton was a member of the dance team that performed at the games.“I’ve been in love since I was 15, she figured it out at 17, and we’ve been in love ever since,” Helton said.Going into their 21st year of marriage, the Heltons have three kids of their own, including high school senior, Reid Helton, who is looking at USC as a possible college for next year.FootballAs spring football begins, Helton has his hands full implementing new concepts as well as incorporating freshman onto the team in what he expects to be a competition-filled spring season.“The beauty of spring ball is competition, and that’s where you establish yourself,” Helton said. “Over the past six years, we’ve had 15 freshman All-Americans, so here it’s about stepping on that practice field and competing. It doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman or a senior.”Spring isn’t just about football though. Helton said the program tries to get the players together as much as possible to promote the family-to-football tie.“We believe in the family aspect of things and the brotherhood, and to have that you’ve got to be together,” Helton said.Helton cited bowling and movies as two team favorites as well as Friday night dinners at local restaurants on road games during the season.In his first full season as head coach, Helton has a lot to juggle between deciding starting lineups, preparing for a full schedule of tough opponents and keeping off-the-field drama to a minimum. For him though, it’s much simpler than that when you are able to focus on the things that matter most: Faith. Family. Football.