Success with Honor: Doris Willette
March 25, 2009
By Mary Kate DeCoursey, Athletic Communications Student Assistant
Traveling over 2,500 miles from your hometown to college is not the easiest adjustment. With family, friends and familiar surroundings on the opposite end of the country, it takes a great amount of confidence and poise to begin a new part of life on your own.
Doris Willette was ready for this challenge, and many more that would come her way in the two and a half years following her high school graduation in Lafayette, California, in June 2006.
"Sometimes it gets hard being so far away from home, but that's usually when I go online and book a flight home for my vacation time," said Willette.
A current red-shirt sophomore on the Penn State 2009 National Championship fencing team, Willette has flow on many planes not only domestically, but internationally, simply to do what she loves: fence.
"I started playing when I was nine because my dad had played in college and encouraged me to try it out," added the foil participant. "When I was looking at schools, I ultimately chose Penn State simply because of the team chemistry."
The bond that her team has had has brought the Nittany Lion fencing team a great deal of success, including 11 National Championship titles since 1990, most recently in 2007 and 2009.
Some may say that the current team simply can't be their best without Willette. Following a freshman season that included a perfect 33-0 run through dual meet season and the individual women's foil crown during her first trip to nationals, the All-American decided to take her sophomore year off to compete with the U.S. Fencing team.
After training in San Francisco, Willette traveled across the world to compete, spending time in Asia, Korea and Japan, among many other nations, ultimately landing at the World Fencing Championships. To culminate her world travels away from Happy Valley, Willette ended up in Beijing, China, where she was an alternate for the U.S. women's foil team. Although she didn't compete herself, the communications major said it was a great experience.
"A highlight of the three weeks was definitely eating lunch in the same room as Michael Phelps," grinned Willette. "Beijing was an incredible city with amazing venues and friendly people."
After a year of jetlag and hotel rooms, the Penn State sophomore is relieved to be back with her Blue and White teammates.
"It's great to be back and be part of the entire team again," said Willette. "We are a family here; I missed them."
The highlight of Willette's sophomore season occurred on March 22, when her team won the National Championship for the second time during her tenure at the university. After a tough first day of competition, Willette woke up with a fresh face and topped Olympian Emily Cross of Harvard, 5-1 and 8-7 in two separate bouts to take home her second individual National Championship in as many chances.
With just half of her college career under her belt, Willette has two more years to add accomplishments to her resume and bring victory to Happy Valley.
"Even though most people around campus and in the community don't know about how successful we are as a team, we know. That's what means the most to us."