COLUMBIA — Rachel Stuhlmann didn't know the decision she made in kindergarten would stick with her for so long.
When they reached kindergarten, Lisa Stuhlmann asked each of her triplets to pick a sport. Each choice had to be different. Rachel Stuhlmann chose tennis.
“She just didn’t want us competing against each other,” Rachel Stuhlmann said. “I have no idea why I chose tennis, but it worked out and I am happy I did.”
She started playing tennis at age 5 at the Sunset Tennis Center in St. Louis, and is now as a freshman the first player the Missouri tennis team has signed since restarting the program about 13 years ago that has won a United States Tennis Association state championship.
Rachel Stuhlmann said Craig Sandvig, who was her first tennis coach, is one of the most influential people in her tennis life.
“He taught me more than tennis,” Rachel Stuhlmann said. "More aspects to life and made me enjoy the sport more.
"I think my mom realized that it was a great life sport after spending so much time with me around the tennis courts. She saw people of all ages, including senior citizens and all levels of ability out on the courts. She knew it was something we could do the rest of our lives.”
This realization propelled Lisa Stuhlmann to have Rachel Stuhlmann's siblings Hannah and Joseph Stuhlmann try tennis as well. While tennis wasn’t Hannah’s cup of tea, Joseph began to play and now plays for Truman State University.
“I am glad my mom had me try," Joseph Stuhlmann said. "I knew that Rachel loved tennis and she had fun, which made me willing to try. It’s hard to play hockey in college, and I wanted to play something in college … that was my motivation to get better at tennis.”
Once Rachel Stuhlmann hit high school, she began playing for Kirkwood and returned to Sunset in the offseason. Her junior year, she moved to Texas to attend the John Newcombe Tennis Academy and attended New Braunfels High School.
“We had tennis before school, went to school, came back to the ranch and had more tennis, fitness training and weight training,” Rachel Stuhlmann said. "My day began at 6 a.m., and I had one hour a day free from 9 to 10 p.m.”
While she loved being in Texas, it made her realize that she wanted to be closer to home.
“I returned to Kirkwood senior year so that I could graduate from Kirkwood High School with my brother and sister and so that I could graduate early,” Rachel Stuhlmann said. "I had enough credits to graduate a semester early at Kirkwood, so that way I could go back to Newks second semester and train full time. I also returned to Kirkwood High School because I wanted to represent Kirkwood in playing at state again senior year.”
Early her senior year she decided she wanted to go to MU over LSU, Texas Tech and Colorado.
“Mizzou felt most comfortable, and my mom went here,” she said.
Missouri coach Blake Starkey said he is glad she came.
“She is a real solid player … we are happy that she is here, and we are looking forward to seeing her develop,” Starkey said.
In her first collegiate event, the Northern Iowa Invitational, Rachel Stuhlmann advanced to the quarterfinals of the gold flight singles and beat Iowa’s No. 2 player, Lynne Poggensee-Wei.
“My first win as a Tiger felt very good,” Rachel Stuhlmann said. "It was refreshing to know that I can successfully compete at the college level, and it was nice to help the team to a solid victory. I love representing the Missouri Tigers and cannot wait until our next match.”