Ithaca High School Ukrainian Exchange Student Luba Kryshchuk Shines on Tennis TeamWhen Luba Kryshchuk first arrived in America in 2021, she packed her tennis racket ‘just in case.’ Today, Luba is one of only six players to compete in sectionals, state qualifiers, and (hopefully) a trip to the state tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in June.
Originally from Kyiv, Ukraine, Luba started playing tennis when she was only five years old. “I wanted to be Serena Williams,” Luba recalls. “I wanted to be a professional tennis player as a career.”
By the time she was ten, Luba had competed in the Kyiv Cup, a competition for 10-12-year-old professional tennis players. She became the number ten player in Ukraine in the 12-14 age division and started playing in matches across Europe.
However, at age thirteen, Luba opted to take a break. After returning to regular school, she applied for the US exchange program.
Luba was placed with a host family in Clearwater, Florida at the start of the 2021 school year, where she attended a small, Christian private school. Unfortunately, the school had no tennis team, and when the host family fell through, Luba transferred in January 2022 to New Hope, Alabama, and attended a small public high school. While she was able to play tennis on her school’s team, the small program didn’t challenge her.
When war broke out in Ukraine, the exchange program offered Luba another year in the program. With her parents safe in Poland, Luba opted to stay another year and, hopefully, find a more competitive tennis program elsewhere in the country.
In the summer of 2022, a host family in Ithaca emerged as a potential match. Though Luba briefly enrolled at New Roots Charter School for the first week of the fall semester, by September 13, Luba was formally enrolled in the ICSD and was excited to join a competitive tennis program. Unfortunately, the fall season had already begun; still, through the advocacy of her host family, the athletic department was able to acquire a waiver to register Luba for mixed competition to play on the boys’ team in the Spring of 2023.
Luba recalls how welcome she felt when IHS ENL teacher Jen Johnson gave her a tour. “I love the quad, all the nature, and how welcoming all the students and teachers were when I arrived here.”
Although Luba feels she’s rusty (“10-year-old me would definitely beat me right now”), she’s happy to be back on the court doing what she loves. ”I like the feeling of playing with someone good and being competitive. I’ve missed that.”
Luba intends to stay another year and look at colleges in the United States. “Luba has been a wonderful addition to our tennis program,” Coach Shane Taylor shared. “She brings up the caliber of the whole team, models excellence, and competes at the highest level on and off the court. It's been a joy coaching and learning with Luba.”