At 10, while senior psychology major Nicole Fouts was relaxing on vacation at Gleneden Beach in Oregon, her mother Karen signed her up for a tennis lesson at the Salishan Tennis Center, without Fouts’ knowledge. She went to her first lesson and didn’t like it, but her parents believed she was a natural.
As time went on, she continued playing so she could improve while also playing basketball. When she enrolled at Jesuit High School in Portland, Oregon, she made the freshman basketball team and the varsity tennis team. Fouts felt like she had to make a decision.
“I decided to take tennis more seriously and start playing every day,” Fouts said. “Once I got pretty good, I said, ‘OK, I want to play in college.’”
In the 2018 season, Fouts’ junior season, the Chapman women’s tennis team finished fourth in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) with an overall record of 10-9. Head coach Will Marino and the rest of the tennis coaching staff received SCIAC Coaching Staff of the Year. After placing seventh the previous two years, the award and ranking was a refreshing accomplishment, Fouts said.
“It’s been quite the journey. My freshman and sophomore year, our team suffered. But I came to Chapman to play tennis so I decided to make the most of it,” Fouts said.
This year, the team carries an overall record of 3-10, with three matches left in its season. Fouts has won five singles matches this year and lost eight. She has also won seven doubles and lost six. But she isn’t discouraged by a few numbers on a piece of paper. This season the team has played higher division teams in nonconference matches, and Fouts welcomes the competition.
“It looks bad, but we have to consider that we’ve played Division I schools and the rest of our schedule was already stacked in the first place,” Fouts said. “It’s good competition. You are only going to get better if you play people who are better than you.”
The team has played 12 nationally ranked Division III schools this year, like No. 2 Claremont Mudd-Scripps and No. 4 ranked Pomona-Pitzer College. Fouts is the only senior on Chapman’s team of 11, but she tries to balance her academics and athletics. Her teammate, sophomore kinesiology major Delara Fotovatjah, said Fouts manages her activities well.
“She does have a busy life,” Fotovatjah said. “She is a fighter and she has a lot of personality.”
After Fouts graduates this spring, she intends to continue tennis.
“I want to keep playing as long as I can,” Fouts said. “I can’t imagine not playing.”