From across the globe to the court, Utah Tech tennis welcomes international players

This year’s Utah Tech tennis squad includes seven international students. The girls commented on how exciting playing tennis in a different country is. Miki Akiyama | Sun News Daily

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The Utah Tech University women’s tennis team is an example of how talent transcends borders with the majority of its players being international students.

The tennis team has 11 athletes on their roster this year. Seven of them are from another country outside of the United States.

Student-athletes from other countries outside of the U.S. include:

  • Rachel Mellor: Mandurah, Australia
  • Annemiek Sterk: Bridge of Allan, Scotland
  • Adithi Venkatakrishnan: Chennai, India
  • Mariana Zurita: Santa Cruz, Bolivia
  • Ya-Chi Hsu: Kaohsiung City, Taiwan
  • Ana Gutierrez Sampere: San Luis Potosí, Mexico
  • Laura Coulome: Rueil-Malmaison, France

The team is coached by Eric Pelton who has been the head coach of the women’s tennis team ever since the team was first established as an athletics team in 2006.

Pelton said the recruiting process is where they find their players, and for some unknown reason, it brings them to foreign athletes. 

“Tennis in general, it’s crazy big, especially Division l,” Pelton said. “Out of all the universities, probably about half of the players are international, so it’s not just us. It is a pretty common theme.”

With 65% of the team being international players, Pelton said most of the athletes will commit to the school without ever making a visit. Many arrive in the U.S. the day before school starts and don’t get to check out the campus until classes start. 

Annemiek Sterk, a sophomore psychology major from Bridge of Allan, Scotland, said she knew she would be going to the U.S. for tennis due to limited competition in her hometown where she played against the same girls year after year.

“Since the age of 9 or 10, I’ve always wanted to play college tennis,” Sterk said. “I never envisioned myself being in Utah, specifically, but it was just the opportunity that came to me. This [college] is the next step in tennis for people from the U.K.”

Leaving the country one was born in and coming to a different country to play a sport can be challenging. Players must adapt to the different time zones, languages, accents and cultural differences.

Ana Gutierrez Sampere, a freshman marketing major from San Luis Potosí, Mexico, said she had trouble getting a visa that allowed her to travel to the U.S. Upon her arrival, she saw a huge difference between St. George and where she’s from.

“It’s so different from my country because Mexico is always partying,” Sampere said. “The people there were so gentle with you all the time, and here it’s the opposite. The people are so reserved.”

The women’s tennis team started the 2023-2024 season with the Idaho State Fall Invitations in September. The team has two other tournaments in the fall. First up is the Utah Intercollegiate Tennis Association Regionals Oct. 18 through Oct. 22 in Salt Lake City and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Watanabe Classic Nov. 10 through Nov. 12.

The first official season matches will be played next year in January with conference play starting in March.