SWD tennis standout lands $80K scholarship

Danielle Mattis, who graduated from Southwest DeKalb High School with a 3.4 grade point average, has landed a $20,000-a-year scholarship to Brescia University in Kentucky.

Danielle Mattis, a 2018 Southwest DeKalb High School graduate, has landed a $20,000-a-year tennis scholarship to Brescia University in Owensboro, Ky.

Danielle, who graduated on May 22 with a 3.4 grade point average, competed at No. 1 Singles where she compiled a 13-28 record against top, state-level competition, posting a record of 17 wins and 11 losses in 2017-2018 school year.

At Brescia, she will play for head coach Olga Chernova, who was a No. 1 player at Michigan State University. 

Southwest DeKalb will celebrate Danielle with a signing ceremony during its tennis awards banquet on July 11 in the school's Performing Arts Center Auditorium.  

Danielle, who lettered in tennis three year at SWD, joined the tennis team in fall 2015 after she relocated from her native Jamaica. She quickly demonstrated her skills on the court and was voted captain by her teammates two consecutive years.

She got news of the scholarship on June 25 and was bowled over by the size of the offer.

"I didn't expect to get that much," she said  July 2. "I was really happy that my parents don’t have to spend too much money to send me to school."

She is the seventh Southwest DeKalb tennis player since 2012 to land a tennis scholarship, following in the footsteps of Jasmine Riddick and Kaylin Roman to Johnson C. Smith University in 2012 and 2014; and Felicia Penn to Tuskegee University and Kalin Harrison and Odell McCree to Fisk University in 2012.

Brescia University is a Division II member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics with an energetic fan base. Chernova has been head coach for three years.

Danielle, who draws inspiration from renowned tennis pro Serena Williams, dreams of a friendly match with her idol.

“I used to watch her play when I was in Jamaica,” she said. “Hopefully, one day I’ll get to play with her, not against her.”

Danielle’s road to the court began in physical education classes in St. Catherine, Jamaica. Watching Williams compete on the world stage fueled her passion for the sport.

She said she knew she wanted more from tennis, and she got that chance when she moved to the United States in 2015, and got to play for SWD coach Lance Davenport.

“She always strived to be great on the court and classroom,” Davenport said. “She sets high standards for herself and her teammates, and she’s been pretty assertive since day one.”

In Jamaica, Danielle was taking 22 classes a week. At Southwest DeKalb, she had to take only four.

"I adjusted pretty quickly," she said, admitting a penchant to “eat, sleep and breathe tennis.”  

With the help of Davenport, teachers and willpower, she quickly got into the swing of things.

Off the tennis court, Danielle is a member of Rho Kappa Social Studies Society, Spanish Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta Math Society, Beta Club and National Honor Society.

She loves talking to people and plans to either turn tennis pro or become a forensic psychologist.

“I want to understand why you did what you did,” she said.

As for college tennis, Danielle was also courted by Rheinhardt University, Guilford College and College of New Rochelle.

She picked Brescia because she believes that it will allow her to have the best on the court and in the classroom.

 “I cannot wait to start,” she said. "It's a new school, new city, and new people, so I just can't wait."