Xandra Fougner brings experience to women’s tennis

Calvin Shomaker | Assistant Copy Editor | @cshomaker12

The UNC Wilmington Women’s Tennis team got more experienced this off-season with the addition of Xandra Fougner.

Born in Olso, Norway, Fougner came to the United States just two and a half years ago to play tennis at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. After going 11-10 in singles in the No. 2 slot for the Bears last year and being named the Southern Conference’s Player-of-the-Week in March, Fougner decided she wanted to become a Seahawk. She drove to Wilmington all the way from Macon to tour the campus.

“Once I got here I really felt like this was it,” Fougner said. “Some people might just say that, but I actually really felt it. The coaches are great, and the girls are as well — they are very sweet and kind.”

Fougner began playing tennis at the age of three with the encouragement of her father, a former tennis player. She played golf growing up and participated in dance and aerobics, but tennis became her true passion. She placed second at the 18-and-under Norwegian Championship and played her high school tennis in France, where tennis is much bigger than in Norway.

Though playing in France was a step up from Norway, it still couldn’t compare to the United States.

“The saying, ‘Everything is bigger in America,’ is definitely right,” Fougner said. “People are more open to conversation here, though, and it’s easier to interact. The college experience is also completely different. We don’t have anything of this kind back home.”

The Lady Seahawks are rebounding from a 9-9 record last season, but return their No. 1 player in former Louisiana State transfer Madara Straume. The team only lost one player in the off-season to graduation. Six of the nine players listed on this year’s roster are upperclassmen with seniors Hollie Champion, Annika Sillanpaa, and Alix Theodossiou leading the way.

College tennis in America has seen a steady influx of international talent. Straume is from Latvia, and just won the Latvian National Women’s Double’s Championship, and Sillanpaa is from Finland. Five of the men’s six players on this fall’s roster are from outside of the United States. The only American on this year’s men’s team is New Hanover High School product Marshall Waren.

The Lady Seahawks will play a series of invitational tournaments this fall, including the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Regional. In the spring, the team will compete for the Colonial Athletic Association tournament crown in April. It’s a long, grueling season, but Head Coach Hans Olsen and his staff make sure the players stay focused on the now.

“The coaches set goals and for three weeks we will work on something,” said Fougner. “Right now we are working on mental strength. College tennis is a great experience. It teaches me to be mentally strong and to not only fight for yourself but for your teammates.”

Fougner’s favorite tennis players are Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, and her go-to shot is a backhand down the line. She is in the business program, but undecided on a concentration.

The first official team practice of the season was held on Sept. 1. The Lady Seahawks have two weeks to prepare for the three-day College of Charleston Invitational held on Sept. 16-18. They then will return home on Sept. 30 – Oct.2 for the UNCW Seahawk Invitational.

The Men’s Tennis team kicks off its fall campaign Sept., 23-25 at the Elon Fall Invitational before preparing for the ITA Regionals in October.