College Notebook: Fuchs sisters making most of one season as Pilots teammates

Stephanie, Sabine like team aspect of collegiate tennis

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photoUniversity of Portland senior Stephanie Fuchs.

PORTLAND — Stephanie Fuchs and Sabine Fuchs always thought of themselves as teammates.

For this one season, however, the sisters from the La Center area are actually listed on the same roster.

Stephanie, a senior, and Sabine, a sophomore, are the top two singles players for the University of Portland women’s tennis team. They frequently also pair at No. 1 doubles.

After arriving in the La Center area from Wisconsin at ages 7 and 5, both sisters and their two brothers were homeschooled through the curriculum of the Washougal-based Hewitt Research Foundation. The correspondence school provides textbooks and course items to families nationwide, and grades work mailed in by students.

Because they did not attend public schools and with the additional complication that La Center High School does not have a tennis program, the siblings concentrated on year-round junior competition and did not play high school tennis.

Stephanie Fuchs played at Portland State as a freshman before transferring to the University of Portland for her final three seasons, which are quickly coming to a close.

Two years younger, Sabine Fuchs initially went to the University of Oregon as a freshman before joining her sister at UP this season.

“I think that looking back on it, now that I have a team experience, I realize how how wonderful it is,” Stephanie Fuchs said. “... As far as tennis, I traveled on weekends and I was with my siblings all the time, so in that sense, I got to have those close relationships.”

The Fuchs siblings — older brother Christoph played at Whitman College — are serious about tennis, and high school tennis may not have been for them, anyway.

“As much as it would have been fun to play high school tennis, it would have taken away from our actual tennis,” Sabine Fuchs said. “Not to take anything away from most high school tennis players, but a lot of them just play during that season, and we’re year-round competitors.”

After starting out at Vancouver Tennis Center, both girls soon joined the tennis academy run by Pilots men’s coach Aaron Gross — the husband of women’s coach Susie Campbell-Gross. When they were looking to transfer, they realized that UP already felt like another home.

Rated the No. 2 recruit in Washington and No. 4 in the Northwest for the Class of 2007 by tennisrecruiting.net, Stephanie Fuchs garnered honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference accolades as a freshman at Portland State. When the coach she became a Viking to play for left PSU, she took the opportunity to reassess what she wanted in a collegiate experience and realized that UP was a better fit for her both in terms of academics and tennis.

Athletes who transfer between NCAA Division I schools do not have to sit out a transfer year if the new school is not in the same conference as the original school.

Sabine Fuchs — rated the No. 2 recruit in both Washington and the Northwest, and the No. 78 recruit nationally in the Class of 2009 — had success as a freshman at Oregon, but decided that the school and the program were not the fit she was looking for.

When she began to consider a transfer, she knew where she wanted to be. Being an official teammate of Stephanie’s is “definitely amazing,” she said.

“I’m thankful every day that I transferred,” she said. “It’s been such a remarkable experience with her around. I know that I play my best tennis when she’s there. I’ve been able to play doubles with her several times, and that’s been pretty amazing. That’s special.”

Stephanie Fuchs was already enjoying the collegiate tennis experience before this season, but playing with Sabine makes it even better.

“This has been the best year because she’s here,” she said. “I was sad for senior year, but I’ve had so much fun that it’s worth it.”

That season is nearly over.

After a strong start, the Pilots faltered as injury to two of their top four players prompted shuffling of the lineup. The Fuchs sisters are 8-3 playing doubles together, but they often do not know what the lineup will be until match day. The Pilots face Washington State at the UP tennis facility at 1 p.m. Friday in a non-conference dual to conclude the regular season.

The West Coast Conference championships are April 21-23 in San Diego, with the NCAA championships on May 19-30 at Stanford University.

Noteworthy

• Concordia University sophomore Gabi Dixson, a homeschool graduate who competed for Battle Ground High School, was named Cascade Collegiate Conference Women’s Outdoor Field Athlete of the Week for the third consecutive week. She holds the top marks in NAIA this spring in shot put (48-6¼) and discus (156-4), and is fourth in hammer throw (170-5).

• Hawai’i pitcher Zach Gallagher (Camas High School) pitched seven shutout innings in a 3-2 win over Sacramento State on Sunday. Gallagher (4-1) is second in the Western Athletic Conference with an earned run average of 1.95.

• Boise State thrower Alex Nelson (Evergreen High School) was named WAC Men’s Outdoor Field Athlete of the Week after a mark of 208-3 in the hammer throw, his personal best and conference-best this season by more than 10 feet.

• Mount Hood Community College softball outfield Jessica Guy signed a letter of intent to play at Jacksonville State of the NCAA Division I Ohio Valley Conference.

Suggestions for College Notebook? Contact Kurt Zimmer at 360-735-4563 or by e-mail at kurt.zimmer@columbian.com