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OWH: Mercy principal’s 43-year education career draws to a close

Through countless long nights and weekends, Mercy High School has been Carolyn Jaworski’s second home.

She grew up down the street from the school.

She went to grade school nearby and, in 1964, graduated from the all-girls Catholic high school near 48th and Center Streets.

She has spent her entire education career — 43 years — at the school as well.

After 25 years as the school’s principal, Jaworski will retire June 30.

Colleagues and former co-workers say Jaworski stuck to the values of the Sisters of Mercy throughout her decades at the school: faith, knowledge and service.

» Faith, by starting every day with a prayer over the intercom and by asking every teacher to begin class the same way.

» Knowledge, by listening to and getting feedback from her staff while leading the school.

» Service, by requiring girls to complete at least 40 hours of volunteering before graduation.

“Her commitment to the spirit of Catherine McAuley (Sisters of Mercy founder), I think, is outstanding,” said Sister Delores Hannon, who has co-led the school with Jaworski the past four years as Mercy’s president.

Jaworski, a sister of longtime Creighton Prep football coach Tom Jaworski, also let more girls learn those values.

In fall 1989, Jaworski’s second year as principal, Mercy started its “negotiated tuition” program in which the school meets with each family and sets individual tuition rates based on the family’s ability to pay.

Catholic schools are very proud of the term “college-prep school,” said Sister Johanna Burnell, who co-led the school as president for about 20 years with Jaworski.

“Becoming a college-prep school often means you eliminate some students who may have had some learning difficulty as younger students,” she said.

Mercy requires only one thing of its incoming students: a desire to go there. Incoming students must write an essay and go through an interview to determine the sincerity of their desire, a process Jaworski instituted.

Other all-female Catholic high schools partly determine admission by students’ previous academic performance.

Jaworski’s values might have stayed the same, colleagues said, but the school has not.

She frequently pushed her teachers to create new courses for the school’s curriculum, to inject new ideas into the classroom.

She encouraged teachers to take their students on field trips and to bring in guest speakers, said Holly McCoy, the school’s dean and athletic director.

Jaworski also urged Mercy teachers to think of different ways to assess the girls’ learning, whether through on-demand writing, presentations or projects, said McCoy, who started teaching at the school in fall 1978.

Jaworski also has helped the school become wireless and launch new Advanced Placement courses and dual-enrollment classes, courses in which students can receive both college and high school credits, Hannon said.

“The school is not the school it was five years ago,” she said.

Students have noticed Jaworski’s passion as well.

Jaworski welcomed Calla Kessler and her classmates to Mercy by giving the students hugs and roses.

“It’s become a really strong, all-girls Catholic high school because of her,” said Calla, who will be a senior this fall.

Jaworski has achieved this success with a talent her colleagues have called “innate” and “God-given”: her ability to understand kids and make the right decisions for their future.

“How envious am I that she has it; I always have been,” said Burnell, the retired Mercy president.

Hannon says it’s Jaworski’s ability to listen to students and suspend judgment that has helped her often make the right decision.

With an irritable student, Hannon said, “You can start that conversation with, ‘Knock that off,’ or you can start that conversation with, ‘What’s going on?’ ”

Because of her retirement notice, Jaworski has received thank-you notes from those students she counseled in her office and in the school hallways.

That’s what she’ll appreciate the most from her years at Mercy, she said: the faces and the names of the students she tried to help, and the students who thought enough of those attempts to thank her years later.

“When you have been blessed to step into somebody’s life,” Jaworski said, “that’s when you raise a toast, good job, good year.”

Good career.

La Monf, late to the match, finally shows

For four sets Thursday evening, we were privileged to see Gael Monfils, the most athletic person to play tennis, play the sport.

Monfils, as he had been in earlier rounds of this year’s US Open, was focused. He took no points off. He saved games against Roger Federer with 137 m.p.h. aces. He talked to himself to pump himself up, not to dismantle his game.

This was the Gael Monfils we had been waiting to see and had previously enjoyed, see Murray v. Monfils, 2014 French Open, sets three and four.

Thursday, for four sets, Monfils of the past, the one who quit playing during matches, was gone. Or so we, or maybe just me, thought.

Then, at the worst possible time, or, for Monfils, right on time, the old Monfils showed up.

It was the game after Monfils had lost two match points. Fourth set. 5-6. 40-40. Monfils serving. Two double faults.  And then, too predictably, came the full arrival of the other side of Monfils, one of the most enigmatic people to play tennis.

He quickly lost the next two games. Federer evened the match at two sets all.

And the predictions for a total collapse were streaming:

Monfils painfully made Thomas and others correct by making odd decision after odd decision.

Monfils, already down 1-2 in the fifth, tried a tweener from the middle of the baseline on a very regular net shot from Federer. During changeovers, he walked to his chair with his head sulking. The Monfils who had talked to himself to excite himself in the third set was gone.

La Monf lost the fifth, 2-6.

Sure, we should have expected this, a Monfils collapse in the fifth against one of the best competitors of all-time. But Thursday felt different. Monfils hadn’t lost a set in this year’s US Open. Days earlier, he had too convincingly beaten Grigor Dimitrov, who made the semifinals at Wimbledon, in straight sets.

The antics of old seemed gone. Monfils, coachless, was a new player, or so we all wanted to believe.

“He was focused. He was muted,” Brad Gilbert said during the ESPN broadcast. “And then when he got to the opportunity, he couldn’t take it.”

In the end, it was Federer, talking on-court to Gilbert after the match, best summed up the match, the tournament and tennis careers: “You’ve just got to give it all you have each point.”

Being proud of John Isner, an overachieving American tennis player

You have to feel for John Isner.

He has one of the best American tennis stories in the last 40 years, a collegiate tennis player for four years who has become one of the best 15 players in the world.

But since Isner’s career has coincided with a historic low in American men’s tennis, the historic low, not his remarkable story, is often the focus at Majors.

Isner at Wimbledon (AP photo)

Isner at Wimbledon. (AP photo)

Take, for instance, what happened last week at Wimbledon.

Isner lost in the third round in five sets to Feliciano Lopez, the No. 24 ranked player in the world. That’s nothing to be ashamed about if you’re an American tennis fan.

Meanwhile, however, no other U.S. singles player advanced past the third round, either, marking the first time that had happened since 1911.

Asked about the stat, Isner understandably replied, “I didn’t know that, and I don’t really care, either,” according to published reports.

From Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times:

So he felt no real burden, no need to try to carry the U.S. torch?

“No, no. Not at all,” Isner said. “You know, whatever.”

It’s hard to blame Isner for responding so tersely; he’s hard variations of the question throughout his career.

Such is the life of the leading American man during one of the biggest lulls for American men’s tennis.

(We won’t rehash details of the lull here. You can find that herehere, and here.)

But Isner is hardly to blame for this dry spell.

He arrived at the University of Georgia a lanky, big server focused on collegiate tennis. (His official freshman year numbers: 6’8″, 198 pounds.)

It wasn’t until Isner’s junior year at Athens that he even considered becoming a professional tennis player.

When Ernest Gulbis, arguably one of the most talented players on tour, was 20 years old, he was already taking sets off Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick.

So, my fellow American tennis lovers, be mad about few American men competing with Nadal and Federer and Djokovic; but don’t be mad at Isner.

Instead, appreciate the overachieving American while he’s still playing.

The Big Four, March 2014

Amidst the Big Four shakeup that was the 2014 Australian Open, we rightfully questioned tennis’ royalty, the Big Four, in both name and future. Consider: the Monday after the Australian Open, the Big Four were ranked Nos. 8, 6, 2 and 1.

A month later, we deflect the hype and measure the Big Four’s more complete starts to 2014.

Roger Federer

Federer has the strongest start to 2014 of the Big Four. (Lesson: Set the bar low.) The GOAT dispensed of Murray in the Australian Open, only losing to Rafael Nadal, who was, unsurprisingly, playing unreal tennis.

And a month later, Federer has already matched his 2013 title haul by winning his sixth Dubai ChampionshipsMoreover, his mind is right and his back is better. All good signs that Federer, whatever version, is back for 2014.

Andy Murray

Hard to share a fair read on Murray so far. He explicitly lowered his expectations before Australia and rightfully so after the back surgery.

One way to read his 2014: He’s had a rough start. Murray didn’t reach the Australian Open finals for only the second time in five years. Last month at Acapulco, he lost in the semis.

Another, more realistic way to view his year so far: He’s had a solid start. He reached the quarters of the AO, pushing a resurgent Federer to four sets. Murray also has been able to stay healthy so far this year. (Knock on wood.)

From ESPN news services:

He played four matches in four days, including three three-setters and some late-night finishes, without his surgically repaired back bothering him.

“I woke up the next morning feeling good for the first time since the surgery,” Murray said Monday.

With Murray in 2014, we, again, recognize the beauty of not expecting much.

Novak Djokovic

Here, we can authoritatively say that Djokovic has had a rough start to 2014. Djokovic, three-time AO champion, a gladiator in five-set battles with Stan Wawrinka and whomever else challenges him Down Under, was upset in the quarters to Our Man Stan. That was unexpected.

We can cut the upset a couple ways. In five-set marathons in which the players are so evenly matched and three points decide the match, a guy is probably going to lose one of the contests at some point. We could say the AO was simply Djokovic’s turn and Wawrinka’s breakthrough. But Djokovic also has been the guy who has owned these matches. In 2012, he beat Nadal in a five-set AO final. What’s going on?

All that said, we’ll take the contrarian viewpoint with Djokovic and remain bullish the rest of the way. With all the questions and doubts swirling around him, he’s too good not to revive the year in a big way.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal might have scared us the most so far this year, which is fitting, because he freaked out the tennis world in 2013. Despite the awkward final in Australia, we give the world’s No. 1 an excellent grade for his 2014 start.

Nadal made the finals of the AO, a Major he has won only one other time. Nadal in Australia wasn’t Nadal cruising on clay in Paris; this was Nadal fighting and dominating on a fast surface. Scary, indeed.

Of course, thanks to tennis’ crazy season, in which year outlooks turn on a week’s worth of results, this could all change in a mere 10 days. In that case, enjoy the tennis.



An Iowan moves South, learns about winter

I spent my first 20 winters in northern Iowa. When I was 10, school was cancelled for days because the temperature was more than 30 below zero – “polar vortex” before meteorologists created sci-fi names for cold weather.

When I moved to Columbia, S.C., last fall, I thought I knew everything about winter. But little did I know that my first winter in the South would teach me something that I had never learned while living in the Midwest, something that would save homeowners and renters like myself hundreds of thousands of dollars.

During the middle of the Deep Freeze, I went for my midday walk. It was still about 37 degrees here and sunny. Not warm, but pleasant enough for a stroll. As I enjoyed the walk, I politely chuckled as I thought about how South Carolinians were so worried about this cold air. And then I saw this by the entrance of an apartment complex:

Polar Vortex hits Cola

Keep your cabinet doors open? Keep thermostat above 60 degrees? Where was I?

I had never heard such warnings during any Missouri, Nebraska or Iowa winter. Sure, it was colder than usual in S.C., but nothing unbearable; the temperature was forecasted to be about 10 degrees, not 30 below.

So I did the only thing that would prove my point: I Googled this foolishness. I read about cold weather in the South and this outlandish “freezing of pipes” warning. And then, as often happens when you think you’re smarter and wiser than most, I learned something even more interesting: I was wrong.

The Weather Channel informed:

Water pipes in houses in southern climates often are more vulnerable to winter cold spells. The pipes are more likely to be located in unprotected areas outside of the building insulation, and homeowners tend to be less aware of freezing problems, which may occur only once or twice a season.

This all made too much sense for even me to continue about, acting as if I was the bearer of all winterly knowledge. I quit the act.

The next day, before leaving home for work, I even sort of played along; I set my thermostat to 55 degrees.

U.S. Open Final: Key points steal Djokovic’s momentum

Momentum jerks and hurls every team and every play in every sport. It dictates plays, shifts halves and forces turnovers.

In tennis, momentum sways championships.

On the courts, big “Mo” aggressively accelerates or severely punishes.

David Goldman photo

David Goldman photo

It is one player against another, both of their minds swerving from excitement to doubt by their strokes and their footwork. Their movement controls their shots, and their thinking forces their movements. A doubt here, and a flubbed volley there. Two more missteps and a clean winner from their opponent, and the game is lost. The player’s serve has been broken, and the set is gone. The match could be slipping away.

In Monday’s U.S. Open final, Novak Djokovic was in control of the match, eyeing at least a third-set tiebreaker. He had already broken the once unbroken Rafael Nadal three times in the young match. Djokovic’s forehand was dragging Nadal across the court, his drop shots were tugging Nadal to the net and his laughable lob volley had nudged Nadal back to the baseline.

Djokovic had fully answered Nadal’s dominating 6-2, first-set performance.

But Djokovic gave Nadal a break point, a chance to seize momentum, and Nadal snatched it with a sound forehand and more aggressive play. The Spaniard took the third set. Djokovic was crushed, defeated.

His posture changed. His head dipped. He had no hop in his step, no wide eyes and eagerness to return Nadal’s serves. He was as shocked as Nadal was excited.

Like that, with two points in the third set, Djokovic lost a chance at a tiebreaker, and he lost momentum.

There were no long-time teammates out there to help him recover, no five-minute substitution to let him clear his thoughts and get back out on the field. That’s why tennis can be the most mental and the most intense of sports. Djokovic had nowhere to go to change his mood; he had to stay on court and endure Nadal feeling his 13th major a set away.

It was momentum — and an unreal performance — that helped Nadal and crushed Djokovic to end another fine U.S. Open.

- Jonathon Braden


Two tennis stars serving, two very different reactions

We know Victoria Azarenka’s Australian story well, but what about the similar struggle of Sam Stosur?

Two of the very best women tennis players. Two pressure situations. And two very different reactions, followed by similar explanations.


In the second round of the Australian Open, ninth-seeded Sam Stosur was serving for the match.

After losing the second set, she rallied and led 5-2 in the third.

The score was 30-15; Stosur was two points away from winning the match.

First serve, out. Second serve, out. Double fault. 30-all.

And China’s Jie Zheng won the next two points, breaking Stosur.

Missed was the Australian’s first chance to serve out the match.

She moseyed to the shade in the back of the court, took off her sunglasses and grabbed a towel to wipe the sweat off her arms. Seconds later, she was walking to the baseline, preparing to return a serve from Zhen, who, at 3-5, had gained a mental edge.

Sam Stosur/The Australian


In the semifinals of the Australian Open, top-seeded Victoria Azarenka was serving for the match. She had cooled off the 25th-seeded American Sloane Stephens and was a point away from her second straight Australian Open final.

Leading 40-15, Azarenka dumped a backhand into the net. At 40-30, she whaled a forehand 15 feet long.

She would blow three more match points — that’s five in all — before Stephens would end the 13-minute tentative contest with a screaming forehand up the line.

Gone was Azarenka’s first chance to serve out the match.

She grabbed her towel, wiped off her arms and racquet handle. She sauntered to her bench to sit in the shade and alone ponder her nerves during the changeover.

But Azarenka quickly had company. Medical staff gathered, and she kept pointing at her chest. She took a deep breath and exhaled. Soon, Azarenka was off her bench, mysteriously walking off the court, leaving Stephens to sit in the shade and sip her sports drink for 10 minutes.

Joe Castro/European Pressphoto Agency


Stosur had no such luxury. She was not injured; she was just nervous, what happens when you serve for matches, especially in front of thousands of people in your home country.

Zheng went onto hold, break and hold to give Stosur a chance to win four points and extend the match. But, after Zheng earned a match point, Stosur double-faulted.

She tried to explain after the match.

“You make an error and you tighten up. Unfortunately, it kept happening point after point. Crazy things pop into your head,” Stosur told reporters. “You start not wanting to miss instead of making the winner.”


Azarenka returned 10 minutes later. She still catapulted a couple forehands long but seemed somewhat more composed, bouncing the ball in play enough times to win the next game.

She was relieved.

“I almost did the choke of the year right now,” she said on-court after the match. “I just felt, you know, a little bit overwhelmed.”

Innocently, an Australian announcer voiced the obvious in reference to her 10-minute “medical timeout” and her on-court chat: “She didn’t really tell us what was wrong with her.”

Later, yes, she tried to clarify: She had a rib injury.


Friday evening, Azarenka won her second straight Australian Open title, beating Li Na in three sets.

“You just have to go out there and try to play tennis in the end of the day,” Azarenka said after the match. “The things what happened in the past, I did the best thing I could to explain, to do everything I could, and it was left behind me already.”

Friday evening, Sam Stosur probably watched the match on television somewhere, wondering how and if she will overcome the nerves that have overwhelmed her in big matches.

Perhaps she should get some advice from Azarenka.


Serving under pressure excruciating, even for the pros

From an Associated Press story:

Ninth-seeded Samantha Stosur, who has spoken of her anxiety over playing in front of her home fans, served twice for the match but double-faulted on match point in a 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 loss to China’s Zheng Jie.

“It was a bit of a choke,” Stosur admitted. “Obviously it’s a hard one to take when you get yourself into a winning position and you lose five games straight.”

Stosur, who had nine double-faults and 56 unforced errors, has never gone beyond the fourth round at her home Grand Slam, lost in the first round last year and also lost in her first matches at warm-up tournaments this year in Brisbane and Sydney.

(Thanks, AP.)

Getty Images

Getty Images

Sam Stosur. This is a woman who beat Serena Williams, the most mentally tough player on the women’s tour, in a final at the U.S. Open, Serena’s playground.

Now maybe the U.S. Open had the opposite effect on Stosur. We’ll give her that. But this is a professional tennis player, a Grand Slam champion, someone who makes millions of dollars to compete. How perplexing — and fascinating — that she cannot overcome the anxiety of high-pressure points in her home country?

Of course, she’s not the first player to struggle with hardest part of the game, the mental aspect.

A more recent example happened in late October to another tour veteran:

The New York Times: In the first match of the day, a doubles semifinal, the defending champions, Lisa Raymond and Liezel Huber, fell to Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka, 7-6 (6), 6-1. Huber had a set point on her serve at 6-5 in the first set tiebreaker, but she double-faulted twice. Hlavackova hit a forehand winner on her pair’s ensuing set point, which left Huber crashing to the ground and shifted momentum in the match for good.

The bolded words are my doing.

Liezel Huber: 53 doubles titles. Almost $6 million in prize money. A 745 – 355 record to date.

Forget the technology. Forget the shoes. Forget the weather.

What still matters most, as we know, is what’s going on in the head.

More on Stosur’s home country struggles to come.

Wednesday: Another great day to be alive.

Long live the Queen: American women’s tennis in 2013

May she play for another decade, years after people stopped saying her priorities were mixed up, her focus was misplaced and her training too lax.

For Serena Williams is already one of the best tennis players of all time, one of the best, if not the best, competitors and one of the more interesting athletes of our times.

Think about it all: Her family. Her life. Her sister. Her health.

At the age of 31, though, conventional tennis wisdom tells us she has few years left to play.

Getty Images

Getty Images

But Serena is and has always been unconventional, with her own clothing line, her own life and her own hobbies. She is the atypical women’s tennis player. We know her simply as Serena, the woman who rededicated herself to tennis and wound up winning 15 Grand Slams in the process.

And she may be hitting her prime. Her 2012: Fifth Wimbledon title. Third and fourth Olympic golds. Fourth U.S. Open championship. Third WTA Championship title. Her record to end the year? 58-4.

With 15 Slams, there are only three to beat in the Open Era: Steffi Graf, with 22; Chris Evert, 18; and Martina Navratilova, 18.

Age 31. Fifteen Grand Slams. Three more years, nine more Slams?

Let’s hope so, because after Serena, the U.S. women’s tennis field slips. Long, long gone are the days of two or three top American women ready to be replaced by the same crew only fewer stops and starts.

There is Varvara Lepchenko, ranked No. 20 in the world, her highest ranking in her 12 years of playing pro tennis. Lepchenko, 26, did just finish her best year on tour, though, reaching the fourth round in Roland Garros, her finest appearance yet at a Slam.

There is Venus Williams, the champion sister. Venus, 32, figures to be nearing retirement faster than her younger sister but could dominate doubles for years to come.

And there is Sloane Stephens, the name you’ve been looking to see, the player you want to see face Serena again. At 19, Stephens is the U.S.’ best bet to replicate Serena on the court. She is already ranked No. 25 in the world, played Serena tough in Brisbane and has withstood the pressure of already being called the “Next Best American.”

But she is likely years away from a major run, a Slam semifinal or a WTA title. Her model, Serena, might have won her first singles Slam at 17 but the game is far too physical now, far too demanding and taxing.

So, for now, let’s not look too much farther than where Serena slams her next overhead or where she places her 20th ace or where she stares into the sky as she screams while celebrating another Slam.

For 2013 and American women’s tennis, let’s sing, “Long Live the Queen”, and forget about the future.

American Tennis, 2013

On today, the start of the 2013 Australian Open, let us again examine the prospects of an American man doing something he has not done in 10 years: Win a Grand Slam.

It is a tired premise in which to begin, yes, but one worth asking in 2013 because of what happened to American men in 2012.

Phil Walter/Getty Images

Phil Walter/Getty Images

Andy Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open winner and the flag carrier for a decade, retired. Mardy Fish struggled with heart issues. And John Isner, No. 13 in the world, experienced pain in his right knee that led him to withdraw from this year’s first major.

Leading the most powerful country in the world, No. 20 seed, Sam Querrey. He is 25 years old, has a career record of 184-147 and had his best showing at the Australian Open in 2008 when he made it to the third round.

That’s the bad news.

The good: Querrey made it into the semifinals of a warm-up for Australia and has ascended up the rankings to No. 22, 71 spots higher than where he was this time last year.

So it could be worse.

At this point, however, no matter their ranking, it’s time Querrey and others snatched the flag and sprinted with it, even if they slip, stumble and chip their teeth all yearlong.

It’s time for the U.S. to move past the Roddick age, however frightening that might be in the near future. It’s time for players such as Querrey, Ryan Harrison and the resurgent Brian Baker to have their chance at the top of the American game and see how they like the view and if they can stay for dinner.

Let’s line them up, one by one, and see who fares the best in the Slams and tournaments without Roddick — for good — or Fish or Isner — in the near future — shielding them from the pressure of playing No. 1 singles in Davis Cup or being called the “highest-ranked American” in the field for the thousandth time.

That has to get old, and it’s time for somebody else to see how quickly that happens.

Think about this again: Roddick made five Grand Slam finals and was a semifinalist four times in his career. No American man playing professional tennis today has reached a Slam semifinal.

That’s not a bad thing — it just means the U.S. is due for a restart in men’s tennis, a chance to see how the younger players adapt.

American tennis has been here before — after Pete Sampras retired or Andre Agassi finally said goodbye — albeit the players coming up were more promising the outgoing leaders more successful.

But this is not completely new territory.

In any sport, when the standard-bearer departs and the young guns remain, there is a oh, no, feeling, and doubts abound.

But there’s also excitement and the possibility of what’s next.

That’s where American tennis is today, a day before the year’s first major.

And you know what? It could be worse.