Junior Riley Tran has been playing tennis since he was just 10 years old. Since then, it became his passion, leading to where he is today at ACU.
“I remember when I first started playing, I’d go back home and just hit the ball against a brick wall just for hours a day because that’s how much I loved it,” Tran said. “I dropped every sport after that and just focused in on tennis when I was around 13, and I’ve just been playing ever since then.”
Tran was a 2019 first-team All-Southland conference (No. 5 singles) and didn’t face a conference opponent in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their final matchup was March 7 before the pandemic canceled all sports.
With the shortened season, Tran and his teammates are eagerly anticipating a return to the court in the spring.
“It’s going to be a blast,” Tran said. “We’ve been working towards the spring season every day in 2021. I can tell you we can’t wait to get back and start playing again.”
Tran was recruited by ACU out of Keller High School in Colleyville. He felt like it was a perfect match.
“They recruited heavy out of Texas, so I knew they had top-quality players here,” Tran said. “Some of the best players in the United States decided to come here of all places. We play all the big schools around here.”
Josh and Jonathan Sheehy, former ACU tennis players, were on the team when Tran joined as a freshman. Both of the brothers were nationally ranked and competed in the 2019 NCAA Singles Championship qualifier.
Over the years, Tran has transitioned through coaching changes. The Wildcats tennis team is now led by head coach Juan Nuñez, who he said is incredibly caring towards his players.
“I can’t speak highly enough for him. The way he cares about us not only as tennis players, but as people just blows my mind,” Tran said. It’s been such a blessing and I wouldn’t have it any way else. There’s different coaching approaches that I’ve had to adjust to, but as I said before I wouldn’t change anything here in my time at ACU. It’s just been perfect.”
The upcoming season will showcase many new faces, but Tran said the team has blended together perfectly.
“This year we have five different incoming freshmen; so it’s a really new team but they have been my rock,” Tran said. “It’s been surprising because you don’t expect people to come in and to immediately have such a big impact. But they have been pushing me, supporting me and making sure I’m doing all these things right.”
Along with his teammates, some other members of the community make sure he continues on a successful path, both on and off the court.
“Some of my professors even come to the matches and check in on me with how I’m doing with school that I missed due to matches and tournaments,” Tran said. “And the ACU faculty is so caring and give a great support system, and I’ve really reaped the benefits of that.”
Tran is a kinesiology major and hopes to further invest time with that major in the coming years.
“Eventually I hope to open up my own practice in occupational therapy,” Tran said. “ACU has a brilliant OT school here, so if all goes to plan I’d love to attend this school and maybe partake in a COVID year for my fifth year and continue to play here.”
Tran’s journey has been met with new challenges but countless blessings. With plenty of time left, he plans on taking full advantage of every second he has.
“I just want to make as many lifelong friends here as I can,” Tran said. “There are so many great people here, and I just hope to keep talking to these people for years to come.”