The Road From Reno

PURDUESPORTSDOTCOM Lara Burgarello needs five more victories to become Purdue's all-time winningest doubles player.
Lara Burgarello needs five more victories to become Purdue's all-time winningest doubles player.

April 13, 2005

By Annie Shepard, Purdue Sports Information

For most senior athletes, the end of their final season is a time to look back on the successes achieved, obstacles overcome, and memories built during their time on the playing field. Senior Lara Burgarello, better known as `LB' to her teammates, is one of the many Purdue athletes who will see her athletic career come to a close in only a few short weeks.

Burgarello, hailing from Reno, Nev., began her successful tennis career at Bishop Manogue High School, where she was the zone and state champion as a freshman and as a senior. Her sophomore year she was zone champion, state runner-up, and received Nevada's sportsmanship award. She also ranked as high as No. 17 in the nation in 16-and-under.

No other person sees an athlete the same way as a coach. Jan Gruff, Burgarello's high school tennis coach, points out that Lara's determination to be successful in high school and college has lead to great accomplishments.

"I have the utmost respect and admiration for this woman," Gruff says of Burgarello. "Everything - her hard work and dedication - she has done has come back to her."

Many athletes give credit to their coaches, Gruff, however, gives credit to Burgarello for keeping her in the game.

"Lara Burgarello is the only reason that I coached her senior season," Gruff says. "I knew she had the potential to be a state champion."

Gruff was right, and Burgarello's hard work and dedication paid off. After Bishop Manogue, Burgarello ended up on the other side of the country, where she continued her tennis career at Purdue, playing for coaches Mat and Chris Iandolo.

Moving to West Lafayette from Reno was quite a change.

"I miss the weather, for sure," Burgarello says of her hometown. "I would spend a lot of time at Lake Tahoe with my family. We have a house there and we'd water-ski, tube, and have so much fun."

The weather has not had an adverse effect on Burgarello's play. As a freshman, she started her Boilermaker tennis career with a bang. Playing primarily at the No. 4 singles position, Burgarello posted 18 wins, including five straight at the ITA Midwest Regionals, and went 5-5 during the Big Ten season. In doubles action, Burgarello teamed with Melissa Iqbal for a 19-8 overall record at the No. 3 position. The combo won three straight matches at the ITA Midwest Regionals, advancing to the quarterfinals.

Burgarello's sophomore year was even sweeter. She posted an 18-15 mark in singles at the No. 6 position and a 22-17 record in doubles at No. 3. She earned Purdue's April Female Athlete of the Month honor after posting a perfect 9-0 record in singles. Burgarello finished the season on a 10-match winning streak. Paired with teammate Brittany Reitz in doubles, the duo collected a 13-2 record and ranked 60th in the final ITA national poll.

Burgarello posted a 4-4 record in singles and a 21-10 doubles record as a junior. She teamed with Alyssa Rodriguez for a 20-10 mark in doubles. The pair went 13-6 at No. 3, winning 11 of its last 13 matches.

A strong singles player when she arrived at Purdue, Burgarello is now a force in doubles. The evolution has been a pleasant surprise.

"Throughout my freshman year I saw my doubles game improve," Burgarello says. "I came into college never playing doubles, and now it's my passion."

The passion has translated to victories. This spring, Burgarello and senior partner Shawna Zuccarini have collected eight wins at No. 1 doubles, including three in Big Ten play. The Boilermakers are 6-2 when Burgarello and Zuccarini, who have been ranked as high as 40th in the nation in the Feb. 22 ITA poll, win in the top slot.

Moreover, Burgarello and Zuccarini have won four of their last six during a team surge that has seen the Boilermakers claim five victories in their last six outings.

With 75 career doubles wins to her credit, Burgarello is five victories away from surpassing Boilermaker great and current pro Jennifer Embry as Purdue's all-time winningest doubles player.

Burgarello is happier about her team's accomplishments. The most cherished memories to date came during the 2002-03 season.

"The memories that stand out to me the most were during my sophomore season when we beat Ohio State twice," Burgarello says. "The second time we defeated them was in the Big Ten tournament. It was such a rush."

Burgarello's success has had much to do with the influence of her teammates and coaches. Over the past four years the Purdue women's tennis team has been Burgarello's second family.

"We are Mat and Chris' kids," Burgarello says. "If we ever need help with anything, they figure it out."

Burgarello's mom, Janice, also has appreciated the family atmosphere cultivated by the Iandolos. The family atmosphere is one which she is happy Lara was able to experience.

"I've seen, even from Reno, how close the girls are," Janice says. "They are like sisters. They take care of each other on and off the court."

With few matches remaining, this senior has high hopes for the remainder of the tennis season.

"I would love to make it to the NCAA tournament and I would love to end the season in the top five of the Big Ten Conference," Burgarello says. "We've won a few lately and hopefully we'll get a couple more down the stretch."

Purdue, currently ranked 50th in the nation, will get that chance this weekend, when it travels to No. 3 Northwestern and No. 33 Wisconsin.

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