|Cathy Shanander-Law - 2012 HOF|
Former Idaho tennis player Cathy Shanander-Law has an unorthodox tennis stroke. Her sister and longtime doubles partner Patricia Shanander acknowledged it. So did her father and coach, Ron Shanander.
“Cathy, she just didn’t look like a tennis player,” her father said.
“We have completely different styles of games. Hers was a much more steady and unorthodox style,” Patricia said.
“I had a really unorthodox forehand shot,” Cathy even admitted. “It didn’t look really good, but I could place the ball just about anywhere, so it was alright in my book.”
As it turns out, it was alright in everyone’s book. Cathy dominated the Big Sky Conference to the tune of three First-Team All-Conference selections, a conference singles title, a conference doubles title, a Big Sky MVP honor and, along with sister Patricia, an undefeated doubles season, ultimately earning her a permanent spot in Vandal Athletics history as a 2012 Vandal Athletics Hall of Fame inductee.
Growing up as the daughter of a tennis coach, Cathy had a tennis racquet in her hand since before she can remember. Around the age of 11, along with Patricia and their older sister Sarah, she began playing competitively in tournaments all around the Northwest.
“It was a great point in their lives,” Ron said. “We would go around the Northwest and play tennis tournaments, and make those really nice family vacations at the same time, so it was a great experience for all of us.”
As she entered high school, Cathy was the top tennis player at Sedro-Woolley High, earning the team’s No. 1 spot. However, her toughest competition, younger sister Patricia, had yet to reach the high school ranks. When that happened the following year, it became a three-year back-and-forth brawl for bragging rights from day one.
Ron remembers putting the two against each other before Cathy’s sophomore season to determine who would play No. 1 and who would play No. 2 that year.
“Our very first challenge at high school, it was so intense – and I don’t even remember who won, that I went to the league coaches meeting and I told them ‘hey, these gals are so tough on each other and they play so hard, that we’re not even going to have challenges, we’re just going to play one of them the first half of the season at number one, and the other one at number one the second half of the season.’”
Cathy dominated in high school tennis, with her most intense battles coming against Patricia. One, she recalls, came in the state finals.
“I remember we started a rally for an important point. When it’s 30-all or 40-15, those are really important points to win. We started the rally and neither of us wanted to lose it. The rally kept getting longer and longer and the people in the stands said it was 130 degrees outside, and our rally was 132 shots. They were counting,” Cathy said. “We were sisters, but we really fought on the court. We really didn’t want to lose to each other. That’s like the worst thing in the world, to lose to your younger sister.”
When it was all said and done, Cathy won state titles her sophomore and senior seasons of high school. The battle with Patricia had sorted itself out by then, too.
“We counted back on their USTA and their high school matches, and we found out that they had faced each other 168 times. We thought, wow, that’s a lot of times,” Ron said. “Then, we counted back and found out there were 84 wins for each of them, and we thought that was just awesome.”
When it came time to choose a college, there were a few things for Cathy to consider. She knew a year later Patricia would be joining her, and that her family wanted to keep the two close to their Washington home. Offering degrees that interested both sisters, and with a strong academic and athletic reputation, Idaho was the perfect fit.
Arriving in Moscow to begin college in the fall of 1986 marked a major change for Cathy. It was the first time she had been away from her entire family. It was also the first time she was coached by anyone other than her father, and played with a doubles partner other than Patricia.
“It was terrifying, it was really scary,” Cathy said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I was thrown into a group of kids and I didn’t know anybody, I was terrified. I latched on to the tennis team and they became my family. Every waking hour outside of school I was with people from the tennis team. We had a lot of good friends there.”
Whatever she did, it worked. Cathy went on to earn two Big Sky Player of the Week honors during her freshman season, and was a First-Team All-Big Sky selection.
The following year she repeated as a First-Team All-Big Sky pick and also earned Big Sky All-Academic honors. She was a Big Sky All-Academic pick again as a junior before winning Big Sky Championships at No. 1 doubles and No. 2 singles with an undefeated doubles season along with Patricia, earning First-Team All-Big Sky honors for the third time, and taking home Big Sky MVP honors. She was also a Big Sky Scholar Athlete, an award given to only two players each year.
Her career at Idaho brought Cathy more than just success on the tennis court. Idaho is where she met her husband, Joe. The couple now lives in Anchorage, Alaska, and has five children, including, much to Cathy and Joe’s surprise, a set of three year-old triplets. Her oldest boys, who are in elementary school, are home-schooled by Cathy, who also helps run the family Web site development company.
“If someone would have told us back in Idaho that we would move to Alaska, be married 20 years then have triplet babies, we would have laughed our heads off,” Cathy joked. “If you would have told me that going into my freshman year of college, I would have been scared to even go to the University of Idaho.”