Photo by Kelly Smiley, Staff Photographer.
Photo by Kelly Smiley, Staff Photographer.

Chasing a little yellow ball and a dream

For the lone senior on the San Diego State women’s tennis team, the end of the season may signal the end of an outstanding career as an Aztec, but this outstanding career almost never happened.

Hailing from San Sebastián in northern Spain, Laura Antonaña Iriarte arrived on Montezuma Mesa just 10 days before playing her first tennis match as an Aztec.

However, it was a difficult first season for Antonaña.

“I was very homesick right away and I had to adjust to this new culture. I struggled quite a bit. I barely played at the No. 6 spot ; (I played) mostly at No. 7, which doesn’t even count for the team. I was very sad. I considered going back home. That was definitely my lowest,” she reflected.

Ultimately, it was her desire to get an education and become a sports journalist that convinced her to stay in San Diego.

“This experience was once in a lifetime, so instead of giving up right away, I had the support of my family and some friends, so I gave it a shot,” Antonaña said.

Antonaña had also tried to make it as a professional tennis player, playing more than 10 tournaments in Portugal and Spain, and ranked as high as 1,103rd in the world before coming to America.

It should also be noted that Europe doesn’t have a university system like the U.S. does. An athlete can’t play a sport for his or her university while going to school full-time; it’s one or the other.

But the 49th-ranked player in the country has no regrets. After all, America is the land of opportunity.

“Back home, I feel like my career as a journalist wouldn’t go as far. I wouldn’t know English that well, I wouldn’t have had all the experience and I wouldn’t have grown as much as I did here,” Antonana said after practice Thursday.

With the struggle of her freshman year behind her, the Aztec faithful should be glad she stayed. Currently, Antonaña boasts an all-time singles record of 75-29, and she’s not done yet.

Her only focus now is on winning the Mountain West Tournament in the individual national championships in May, which is comprised of the top 64 players in the country.

Antonaña’s season this year has been nothing short of success. She was ranked as high as 35th in the nation and had some big wins this season against players ranked higher than her, including two players who were ranked higher than 25th at the time.

Numbers and statistics aside, she’s still a human being. And if Antonaña has learned one thing in the U.S., it’s that hard work and passion can get someone anywhere.

For the girl from the small town in Northern Spain who grew up playing multiple sports and found her passion, she knows what she wants to do. Antonaña wants to become a sportswriter for Formula 1 auto racing, and once tennis season ends, she’s going to play golf twice a week like she used to.

Photo by Kelly Smiley, Staff Photographer.

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Chasing a little yellow ball and a dream