Following a 3 p.m. tennis practice on a cool February day, Vasilisa Trofimova chats with her teammates, laughs and sits on a bench outside the newly opened Erin J. Lastinger Tennis Center.
Trofimova, a freshman accounting major, is no stranger to new surroundings. Trofimova, who goes by Lisa, was born in Russia, which was the first of three places she lived. She moved from Russia, to the Dominican Republic and then to the U.S., all before age 18.
When she was 10, the Trofimova family moved to the Dominican Republic so that her newborn brother, Ivan, could grow up in a better, cleaner environment. They planned to move back to Russia two years later, but her father’s job at a metal factory made it too difficult to move.
“Me and my brother are 10 years apart, so we aren’t as close,” Trofimova said. “Every time I come back to the Dominican, he is so happy to see me and he is like my little baby.”
After moving to California for college, Trofimova said that she misses the friendliness of the Dominican Republic. When she would walk around town, people would always greet her, stranger or not. In the Dominican Republic, Trofimova said, everyone takes their shoes off before they enter a house.
“When I go to a house here, people always say, ‘You can keep your shoes on,’ and I just say I can’t, I need to take them off,” she said.
Trofimova and her sister, Kate, are very close, she said.
“I pay for my sister’s apartment because her debit card is still processing. I am always there for her, and vice versa,” she said.
When she and her sister were younger, their parents put them in gymnastics and music – gymnastics for coordination and bodybuilding, and music for mental development.
In the Dominican Republic, people didn’t take tennis very seriously, she said, so she decided to move to California and enroll in a tennis academy. After giving her parents a presentation over dinner about how the move would affect her future, they agreed.
In the U.S., Trofimova attended and played for the Advantage Tennis Academy in Irvine, California, in high school. She dropped everything in the Dominican Republic within a span of two weeks.
“I was still enrolled in my old high school when I was playing at the academy,” she said.
With practice every day, Trofimova refined her time management skills.
“We hit for about four hours and had two hours of fitness a day,” Trofimova said. “It was a lot.”
Coaches began to watch her, including Chapman tennis head coach Will Marino, who recruited her through an ex-student who coached Trofimova at her tennis academy.
“On and off the court, she always has energy, a great sense of humor and that competitive mindset,” Marino said.
Freshman teammate Madison Ross said Trofimova’s energy can be infectious.
“Lisa is so funny on and off the court,” Ross said. “Everytime I see her, she is either dancing or cracking jokes. She has great energy.”