Schnack, who helped UCLA to its only NCAA team title in 2008, turned pro upon graduation. But life on the tour proved to be tough and she decided to retire from tennis, taking a job at a freight shipping company instead.
That didn't last long. Schnack, 25, of Sacramento, Calif., was in New Haven last week, playing with Eric Roberson in mixed doubles, trying to qualify for a spot in the main draw of next week's U.S. Open, which begins this week.
The pair won the U.S. Open national playoffs mixed doubles championship Saturday afternoon, 6-1, 6-4, over Matthew Brooklyn of England and Stephanie Wetmore of Canada and will head to New York to play in the Open for the first time.
The players who would take the stadium court a few hours later for the New Haven Open final — Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova — they were heading to the Open as a matter of course. Out on the grandstand court, losing meant no trip to New York but instead, taking on a long flight home to California.
"I'm jacked, I'm pumped," Schnack said. "I did a victory dance out there."
"I couldn't believe it," said Roberson, 27, who played tennis at Boise State. "It's an amazing experience, a dream come true."
The two were at New Haven two years ago and finished as runner-up. Last year, they couldn't play in the qualifier for New Haven because Schnack, who played World Team Tennis for the past few years in Sacramento, was invited by an old friend Vania King to play doubles at Wimbledon with her.
Nicole Melichar and Brian Battistone won last year and went to the Open. Schnack and Roberson drew them in the first round this year, beat them and knew they were on their way to something special.
But last year, Schnack was ready to give it all up.
"I kind of got tired of the tough schedule, being on the road, injuries here and there," she said. "I wanted to do something completely different from tennis. So for my first job, I was working in a freight shipping company, calling these different shipping companies saying, 'Hello, is this package on schedule? Or is it delayed?'
"After about three months of doing that, I had enough. That was the real world and I didn't like it. I'm not the kind of person who can sit behind a desk, and I was working behind a desk for eight hours a day. I was going crazy."
So she quit the job and went back to tennis. She started teaching at the Rio del Oro Club in Sacramento and taking prerequisite courses for nursing school. Roberson teaches at Rio del Oro, too. He had tried to make it on the tour, but retired a year and a half ago.
"It's really tough out on the men's tour, the Futures tour," he said.
The two won this year in California and made the trip back to New Haven, where the defending champs awaited them. Melichar had reached the final of the U.S. Open national playoffs women's singles championship but lost earlier in the week. And Battistone, Schnack said, "hits his serve from a tree. It's hard to break him. I don't think we ever broke him.
"They're two great players."
And Schnack and Roberson won 6-3, 3-6 (10-6).
Saturday, they jumped on Brooklyn and Wetmore early and the momentum carried them.
"Momentum can change at any time," Schnack said. "It's important to be in the present. Fight for every point. Sometimes I tend to look into the future and plan ahead — 'Oh, this point's going to look like this, and then we're going to get off the court, and we're going to drive to New York …' but we have to win the point [first]. We did a good job of staying calm."
And neither is ready to give up on their sport.
"I'd like to continue playing, have fun, make some money," Schnack said. "Tennis is such a big part of our lives. I tried to get away from it, but I don't see myself giving it up totally."