WALLA WALLA - Elise Otto, one of the most decorated players in the history of women's tennis at Whitman College, is the 2011 winner of the Mignon Borleske Trophy, which is presented annually to the top female athlete on campus.
The trophy, which is awarded by a vote of the Whitman coaching staff, recognizes athletic ability and accomplishments, leadership and sportsmanship qualities, and contributions to the campus as a whole.
Otto was named to the All-Northwest Conference First Team in each of her four seasons. She also was named NWC Sportswoman of the Year this spring.
"In so many ways Elise represents everything that both Whitman and NCAA Division III athletics should be about," Whitman coach John Hein says.
"Her involvement in so many areas on campus is indicative of her desire to get everything possible from her education while also giving back to her community.
"Elise has done a wonderful job of combining her talent and competitiveness on the tennis court with a sincere sense of responsibility to herself as well as to those around her," Hein adds.
"Her growth as a player, teammate and mentor have made me a better coach and will continue to set the standard for what the Whitman athletic experience can be."
Otto piled up more than 130 victories (singles, doubles) during her four seasons.
Playing primarily in the No. 2 slot, Otto rolled to a 14-5 singles record as a senior. That included a 9-2 mark against NWC opponents.
She also played No. 1 doubles, posting senior records of 11-7 overall and 7-3 in conference.
Midway through her final season, Otto was named NWC Student Athlete of the Week twice in a three-week span. She won the award five times in her four years.
One of her latest awards recognized her play during Whitman's Spring Break trip to California, when she won four of five matches in singles.
Her most impressive effort came against No. 15 Chapman, when she teamed with sophomore Alyssa Roberg for a victory over a highly-ranked duo at No. 1 doubles and then added a three-set triumph in singles.
After returning from California, Otto helped Whitman with three of its last four NWC matches to nail down a spot in the post-season playoffs. She won all four of her singles matches in that playoff push and was victorious in three of our bouts in doubles.
Whitman saw its season end with a close 5-2 loss in the playoff semifinals, although Otto added two more triumphs to her career win total. After she and Roberg won 8-4 in doubles, she rolled past her singles foe in straight sets.
In the most recent Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) regional rankings, Otto is No. 14 in singles and No. 7 (with Roberg) in doubles.
Otto started her senior year in fine fashion last fall, teaming with Roberg to win the ITA/USTA regional title in doubles. They advanced to the Small College National Championships in Mobile, Ala., where they placed eighth.
It marked the second time in three seasons that Otto earned ITA All-American honors.
As a sophomore, Otto won both the singles and doubles titles at the regional fall tournament. She capped that regional tourney by winning four times, twice in singles and twice in doubles, on the final day of competition.
Otto missed the ITA's regional tournament during her junior season, when she took a leave of absence from school that fall to serve as a volunteer at an orphanage in Mexico.
A geology-environmental studies major at Whitman, Otto worked internships in her field of study through both Whitman and the University of Idaho.
Her other activities at Whitman ranged from working as an editor for the school newspaper and hosting a show on the campus radio station to serving in student government, leading outdoor program trips and playing on the Ultimate Frisbee club team.
She also volunteered to help coach tennis in local grade schools and organized various team fund-raising efforts, one of which helped support low-income families during the holidays.
As her coach, Hein says he will remember Otto as someone who was "always looking out for every teammate. She was a positive influence and mentor to every member of the team."
Otto is a graduate of Lewis & Clark High School in Spokane, Wash.