Injuries Plague CUC Women’s Tennis, But International Student Boosts Wins


Alexa Hoover

Graduate student Heidi Hesse executes a serve against North Park University on Sept. 3.

Tessa Wienss

The CUC women’s tennis program wrapped up a disappointing Fall schedule with key players injured, but a French international graduate student emerged as a standout athlete in the team’s second season since the sport returned in the fall of 2021.

CUC hired Lenno Lasn in April 2021 to coach both men’s and women’s tennis. Prior to this, Curtis Allen coached the women’s team during the 2019 season, but Allen left CUC the following year when the COVID-19 pandemic and difficulty acquiring recruits led to the team’s disbandment.

This year, the CUC women’s tennis team went 2-12 on the season, with individual players earning a win-loss record of 24-58.

“We didn’t have wins, necessarily, but I did feel like we got better,” said Lasn, who is the first full-time head coach for the tennis program in 25 years. “Certain players had wins, so we definitely went in the right direction.”

Half of the nine women on the team were injured at some point throughout the season. “If we could have had our main lineup out, I think we could have won more matches,” said Lasn.

Graduate student Heidi Hesse proved to be a strong force for the Cougars. Hesse went 11-3 on the season overall, and 6-3 in conference competition. She was the number one female singles player for the CUC team and was named the Northern Athletic Collegiate Conference (NACC) player of the week during the first week of September. The NACC also included her on the First Team All-Conference on November 23. 

Hesse grew up in France, and earned her bachelor’s degree in sports management from AMOS Sport Business School after studying in France, Great Britain, Spain, and South Korea. She picked up tennis when she was 15 years old, during her second year of high school in France. “My father used to play tennis when he was younger, and that encouraged me to try, and I liked it,” said Hesse.  

At the start of her career, Hesse most often played on her own, as she was the only girl at her tennis club. Eventually, she found another female friend from her high school who wanted to play. “We played after school every day, and we progressed alone,” Hesse said. As Hesse continued to gain experience and skill, she found better coaches and got involved in more competitive matches.

Along with furthering her international education, Hesse came to the United States to continue her tennis career. Tennis has been one avenue that has connected Hesse to fellow CUC students and to American sports culture.  

As she completes her master’s degree in sports business, Hesse feels drawn toward the enthusiasm for sports in the United States. “To see and participate in sports events and supporting teams here is huge, and I love it,” said Hesse. “Finishing my master’s degree here was the perfect opportunity to experience that sports environment.”

Tennis has taught Hesse both physical and mental discipline. “I have learned to be more patient and mentally strong,” said Hesse. “I get to learn from mistakes, accept losing, and enjoy winning.” 

The mental toughness involved in tennis is one of Lasn’s favorite parts of the sport as well. 

“When you go on the court, you have to problem-solve yourself,” said Lasn. “You ask yourself, ‘What’s not going right? What can I fix and how can I fix it? How can I take the next step and how can I do better?’”  

As a player, Lasn loved the personal fight for the win. “Especially in tennis, there is no time clock, and anything can change, even if the other person is at match point,” said Lasn. In his office, Lasn displays the motto: “Don’t give up and act like you’ve been there before.” 

Lasn emphasizes the importance of team, even though competition in tennis occurs as an individual. “One thing I always say during practice is, ‘This is like family,’” said Lasn. “I don’t care if you necessarily hang out outside of this, but when you get on the court, everybody has to have each other’s back.” 

Lasn looks forward to future seasons coaching the CUC women’s tennis team. His hope is for a season where players experience fewer injuries in order to put out his best lineup and bring in more wins for the Cougars.