WVU Tennis Student-Athletes Spread All Over The Globe
A native of Slovenia himself, West Virginia University’s women’s tennis coach Miha Lisac has infused his Mountaineers with an international flavor since taking over the program in 2013.
Now with the coronavirus cancelling athletic seasons and sending most college students to their hometowns to complete their academic semester through online classes, Lisac finds his student-athletes scattered all over the globe.
Three of WVU’s women’s tennis players are from the U.S., so Christina Jordan (West Bloomfield, Michigan), Kat Lyman (Mount Pleasant, South Carolina) and Nicole Roc (Chicago, Illinois) had relatively short and easy trips back home.
West Virginia’s other four women’s tennis players are anything but local, as Anastasiia Bovolskaia (Irkutsk, Russia), Giovanna Caputo (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Anne-Sophia Courteau (Quebec, Canada) and Sofia Duran (Guayaquil, Ecuador) each came to WVU from great distances.
When the stay-at-home orders came down to battle the spread of COVID-19 in mid-March, most of Lisac’s student-athletes went home so they could ride out the quarantine with their families.
“Given the situation and fact that they can take their classes online, I do think it’s prudent that our players are with their families at this time,” explained Lisac, who grew up in the northern Slovenian town of Velenje, which is near the border with Austria.
“We did have one player who wasn’t able to travel home. Sofia is from Ecuador, and as she was trying to find flights to go home, the country of Ecuador closed down its airports and its borders,” said Lisac. “So, she’s remained in Morgantown. She’s well taken care of. She’s with a circle of friends, and her fiancé is here as well, so she’s certainly not stuck in an apartment by herself.
“We’re fortunate in that all our players have access to technology, so we can continue to stay in touch with them. We haven’t lost track of anyone just because they went home. Everyone is completing their semester online, and that doesn’t change wherever the players are, whether they are from the U.S. or international.”
Duran, along with Jordan, are the lone seniors on WVU’s roster this year. NCAA recently passed a rule providing spring-sport student-athletes an opportunity to get an additional year of eligibility since their 2020 season was cut shot. That could provide Duran and Jordan a chance to return to West Virginia next season, but it’s not definite yet.
“If our heart goes out to anyone, it’s to the seniors,” said Lisac. “Both our seniors are scheduled to graduate. Any further details in terms of the scholarships and their returning next year are still in discussion. It’s a very fluid situation, and we don’t necessarily have all the final answers. We are receiving information from the administration (at WVU) as we go.”
Lisac came to West Virginia in 2013 after having spent the previous 12 years as a coach at Georgia State, which is also his alma mater.
When he got to WVU, Lisac was charged with building a women’s program that had had little consistent success in its 46-year history and was now trying to compete the talent-rich Big 12. Texas, Oklahoma State and Baylor each were in the top 20 when the 2020 came to an end. The Longhorns have a couple NCAA titles on their resume, and the Cowboys were national runners-up in 2016.
“It was a very different situation at Georgia State, in that it competes in a very different conference,” noted Lisac. “We’re now competing at the highest level in college tennis against a very good schedule.
“We recruit from all over the globe,” he continued. “Tennis is such an international sport, and players come from everywhere. You can find players from very remote places who are incredibly talented and sometimes overlooked because they aren’t in the midst of the tennis world.”
Seven years into his time at West Virginia, Lisac is still in the building process of trying to guide the Mountaineers into a competitive situation within the Big 12.
WVU is 23-8 in non-conference matches in the past three seasons, including a 7-0 mark this year when things suddenly came to an end, but it has had very little success in Big 12 action, going just 1-58 against league foes in Lisac’s tenure.
He thought the Mountaineers were on the track this year to becoming more competitive in the Big 12, but he wasn’t able to find out if they truly were better because the 2020 season did not play out as anyone planned.
“Whatever way we spin this, this is a tough situation,” stated Lisca. “The season was cut short, and that’s a tough way to end, especially where we were as a team and how well we were progressing this spring. But it’s more important to note that there are bigger things than tennis, and despite the tough situation, our players understand that.”