“Everybody calls us the Germs.”
Back in 2012, three tennis players from different parts of Germany all ended up at Idaho State University, ready to take on the Big Sky.
Now in their senior campaigns, the trio looks to leave a mark on the ISU tennis program.
Svenja Tegtmeier is from Oldenburg, located about 30 miles outside of Bremen in the northwest corner of the country. She stands at 6 feet tall, towering over many of her opponents and creating an advantage for her on serves and at the net.
Laura Theus grew up about a four hour commute east of Tegtmeier in the capital of Germany, Berlin. Last season she led the Bengals with a 7-6 record individually, including a 4-2 mark in conference action.
Concluding the self-described “northern triangle” of the ISU women’s tennis team is Wiebke Boeckmann, a finance major from Kamen, near Cologne.
From Pocatello to the center of Germany is over 5,000 miles, which equates to about a 16-hour plane ride across the United States and over the Atlantic Ocean.
Even with that distance, the German presence on the Bengal tennis team is an impressive one, with the three from the country known for Volkswagen, bratwurst and world-renowned Oktoberfest events accounting for nearly half the roster.
The team also boasts Laura Gutierrez, a senior from Columbia and Nonie Mulcahy Alexandersen, a freshman from Denmark.
“It’s really cool. You learn about places you might never get to go,” said senior Taylor Cole, a second-year transfer from St. Bonaventure who is originally from East Aurora, New York, just outside of Buffalo. “Now I have offers from all of them for places to stay if I ever do decide to go over there.”
It’s safe to say the ISU women’s tennis team is about as diverse as it gets.
“The diversity is important. You have to be kind of open-minded, and it teaches you to be if you are not already,” said Boeckmann.
While the German girls had never met each other prior to ISU, they all had a constant reason for coming to play for the Bengals.
“It was really all about Mark’s recruiting skills,” stated Tegtmeier.
The Mark she is referring to is Mark Rodel, formerly the assistant coach for the team, who was instrumental in bringing Theus, Boeckmann and Tegtmeier to ISU.
Rodel is now officially listed on the ISU athletics site as the head men’s coach, although his impact with the women’s program is still being felt.
“We all went through [an agency],” said Boeckmann. “I got a few offers and one of them was Mark and ISU. We Skyped a few times and he was really sweet and just super nice. School and tennis, it just seemed to be the right fit.”
The story was much the same for Theus.
“I was playing in a tournament in Germany back then and I met Mark. He told me about ISU and I really liked the way Mark was thinking about tennis and the fact that school was really important too. It wasn’t all about tennis and I really liked that aspect.”
With the Deutschland trio in place together at ISU, the transition was made smoother having people around who could relate to the situation.
“We can share experiences, which is great, and really look at things in a different way together,” said Theus.
It’s the often forgotten aspects of college life that stand out for Svenja.
“Having them is also helpful for the little things like the taxes,” said Tegtmeier. “You always have two people that have to put in the exact same numbers.”
Much like athletes in any sport, a great friendship was created between them.
“That’s why I decided to stay for the full four years,” said Boeckmann. “I didn’t know if I wanted to do one year for experience or four originally. With [Svenja and Laura’s] support, that’s probably why I stayed.”
While living in the states is different in plenty of ways, the girls say it is not as different as many may think.
The language barrier is not much of a problem for those from Germany, as they begin learning English in third grade.
“Our English was good enough to pick it up fast enough to have a successful first semester,” said Tegtmeier.
“Speaking and everyday language is what I have learned here,” added Boeckmann. “For freshmen, I think our writing was pretty good, or at least that is what our professors told us. I still look up vocabulary every day. I’m still learning and improving. It’s a process. Takes a really long time.”
They claim the attitude of Americans is something that has helped with all aspects of the college experience.
“The thing I like the most about being here is the support you get,” stated Tegtmeier. “Everybody always says the sky is the limit. It’s a different mentality than Germany. All the teachers here see that you have so much potential. There is big support and nobody ever sets your limits.”
“Americans are so forward-looking and that’s really nice,” said Boeckmann. “Sometimes I think we [Germans] need a little more of that attitude.”
In their senior seasons, the trio looks to continue enjoying the college experience in the states.
“For me, it’s just being with the team and enjoying our season to the fullest,” said Tegtmeier. “And to play some of the best tennis we have played.”
Not many get the opportunity to play division one collegiate tennis, a chance Theus is appreciative of.
“It’s about enjoying tennis, enjoying traveling and really appreciating that opportunity, which not everybody gets obviously,” stated Theus. “We are pretty lucky to be here and be able to do all of this.”
ISU women’s tennis is scheduled to take part in the Gonzaga Invite from Nov. 6 to 8 in Spokane. The Gonzaga Invite will wrap up the fall season for the team, with the spring slate of action set to begin in January, running until mid to late April.