There are bonds between siblings, and there are bonds between teammates. Then there are those instances when the two come together.
In recent years the women’s
and men’s tennis teams
at Ithaca College have included two pairs of sibling athletes, each with different perspectives on competition. The Nunez sisters, Melissa ’11 and Cristina ’13, played together on the women’s team between 2009 and 2011, and the Levine brothers, Dan ’12 and Justin ’15, shared two seasons on the men’s team between 2011 and 2013. Despite their familial bonds, they each have their own way of navigating the waters between sibling and teammate.
For Cristina, becoming her sister’s teammate had less to do with battling for a spot than with assimilating. She says she and Melissa have always been comfortable together, which made the transition to competing as teammates much easier.
“She helped me feel like a part of the team,” Cristina says.
Soon after her arrival on campus, Cristina began playing doubles with her older sister, Melissa, an athletic training major, and the pair combined for 31 doubles wins. When Melissa’s collegiate career ended, she held the record for the most wins as a doubles player in Ithaca women’s tennis history, a distinction she still holds with 64 victories.
And Cristina, a sport management major, is now the all-time wins leader for the IC women’s tennis team. She holds Ithaca’s records in overall victories, singles victories, and winning percentage. She has been nationally ranked in singles by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.
This past summer on the sidelines at the U.S. Open, Cristina worked as a line judge and a chair umpire. Her job consisted of calling lines, dealing with conflicts between players, and administering code violations.
For Dan and Justin, competition has always been a part of their relationship.
“Being the younger sibling, I always wanted to win everything, whether it was video games, Ping Pong, basketball, or anything else,” says Justin, a business administration major.
Dan, a sport media major, was first to take up tennis and was ranked first on their high school team while Justin was second, but at some point they became more evenly matched.
“It was always tough to lose to Dan,” he says. “But without him, it’s hard to imagine where I’d be with my tennis.”