Bettendorf's Emilia Porubcin has finished third at the Class 2A state tournament each of the past three seasons. 

Jeff Cook, Quad-City Times file photo

Emilia Porubcin has had a wealth of success on the tennis court the past four seasons.

She has held the top spot in Bettendorf’s lineup since her freshman year. She has placed third at the Class 2A state tournament three times, once in doubles and twice in singles. She has dropped less than 10 singles matches in the past three years.

“The friendships I’ve made, the memories I’ve created are going to stick with me for a long time, hopefully forever,” Porubcin said this week as she prepares for the state tournament in Ankeny.

One of four children raised by Michael and Chae Hee Porubcin, all whom play tennis, the sport is just a small portion of her life.

Porubcin earned a 36 on the ACT, the top score, and has been a straight-A student all the way through Rivermont Collegiate, a private school in Bettendorf.

Interested in computer science since middle school, Porubcin doubled up in the AP Sciences as a junior and developed a new technique to measure movement with motion-tracking software at the University of Iowa. She studied bioinformatics and cancer research at the University of Pittsburgh last summer.

Porubcin has worked for several years with a radiologist and nurse navigator at Trinity in the Quad-Cities to see the effectiveness of lung cancer screening. Last winter, she had the opportunity to travel to Vienna and present their findings at a World Conference.

She will head to Stanford this fall with the intentions to joint major in computer science and history.

“Academics have been my primary focus all throughout my life, particularly high school,” she said. “Athletics doesn’t necessarily take a back seat, but if tennis were to ever interfere with my academic performance, tennis would fall by the wayside.”

That has not happened.

Porubcin, one of 12 in her graduating class this weekend at Rivermont, said many of the traits needed to succeed in the classroom have transferred over to the tennis court.

“Tennis, you’re out there on your own mostly, you’re trying to persevere when you’re exhausted or trying to overcome a certain obstacle,” she said.

She picked up a racket for the first time around age 4 or 5. Initially, tennis started as a way to improve her coordination.

“Up until that point, I was incredibly unathletic,” she said. “I would come home it seemed every day with an ice pack because I fell so often.”

Her love for the sport grew and she began participating in USTA events.

With her academics and research opportunities picking up in recent years, Porubcin concentrated on just high school tennis.

After teaming with Dana Waterman for third place at state as a freshman, Porubcin has been third the past two years in singles.

“I’ve been fortunate to coach a lot of great players, and Emilia definitely ranks up there as one of the top team players we’ve had,” Bettendorf coach Ron Stout said. “It has never been about her. She doesn’t want the accolades.

“She pushes herself really hard but it has always been about our team. She’s a very mature young lady in everything she does.”

Porubcin has one more chance to move up from the bronze-medal position.

She’ll face Ames’ Lauren Couves in the opening round Thursday. Fourth-seeded Cari Naanep of Johnston could wait in the quarterfinals and potentially Boone’s Davi Patterson, who Porubcin lost to a season ago, in the semifinals.

“I’m not putting a lot of pressure on myself,” Porubcin said. “It would be great if I could get past third place.

“I just can’t be overwhelmed by who I’m playing. I need to focus on my own performance and not that of the person I’m playing.”

When asked to pinpoint the strongest area of her game, Stout did not mention Porubcin's ground strokes, volleys or serving.

“Her ability to focus,” he said. “She’s always focused on every point, not one to say a whole lot on the court, but she’s always prepared and never seems to get rattled.”

Other than possibly intramurals, tennis is not in the equation beyond high school. She said her mentality this week is to “leave it all out there.”

While the wins and medals have added to her memories, that never has been Porubcin’s primary focus.

“I’ve gotten to play with one of my closest friends all four years in Hannah Borgh, and our coach really focuses not on the competition but improving as a player,” she said. “In the long run, that’s going to serve me even beyond tennis.”


Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.