International tennis players find a home at Alabama


CW / Kelsey Mullins

Robert Cortez, Contributing Writer

It’s not uncommon for Alabama women’s tennis to feature several international players, but the six athletes from overseas on the 2020 roster are the most in the history of the program.

The team’s global presence has been steadily increasing over the past seven years.

“We try to recruit the best people first with the strongest character, integrity and sportsmanship,” coach Jenny Mainz said. “Then, we try to find good tennis players. We recruit all over the world since tennis is a very global sport, and the best players aren’t just in the United States or Alabama.”

The Crimson Tide’s roster contains eight players. Six of them are from abroad, and five of those came to Alabama via transfer. Despite starting their collegiate careers elsewhere and being from Canada, Egypt, Hungary, Japan and Spain, they have found their home in Tuscaloosa.

There are only three freshmen on the roster: Isabella Harvison, from California, and Ares Teixido, from Spain, were both part of the team in the fall, and Canada’s Sasha Gorchanyuk attended Kansas in the fall before transferring to Alabama.

“The seniors have done a commendable job helping and guiding the young ones,” Mainz said. “The freshmen are talented and good people and have made an immediate impact. They are a tremendous addition to the program.”

Senior Jacqueline Pelletier is the only player other than Harvison who was born and raised in the United States, but she too transferred to Alabama, having spent her freshman year at Saint Mary’s College in California. She said it is “one of a kind” to have a team that contains players from all over the world.

“I don’t think there’s been very many SEC schools that have had a whole team of transfers,” Pelletier said. “We’re not only coming from different countries but different universities, and for us to find our second home here [at Alabama] is special.”

Like Pelletier, the other three seniors on the roster — Alba Cortina Pou, Luca Fabian and Ann Selim — all transferred to Alabama entering their sophomore year. Pou played her freshman year at Texas Tech, Fabian at Georgia Tech and Selim at Oklahoma.

Junior Moka Ito is from Fukushima, Japan, and transferred to Alabama her sophomore year after completing a season at Western Kentucky. Ito has stepped into the No. 1 slot for singles play this season.

“I feel the same in the No. 1 role,” Ito said. “I just focus on what I have to do. Being on this team is nice because we are from different cultures and we hang out a lot outside of tennis.”

The Crimson Tide will play its next match on Thursday, Feb. 6 at home in Tuscaloosa against Michigan State. First serve is scheduled for 5 p.m. CT.