Tears swelled in the eyes of Desiree Tran as she walked off BYU’s outdoor tennis courts carrying roses, her final day in competition at home as a member of the BYU women’s tennis team coming to a close.
Senior Day, the final home match held on April 12, was bittersweet for parents Son and Quynh-Anh Tran; the eldest of their two daughters was moving on from her successful collegiate career in tennis, while their younger daughter, Nicolette, would be sticking around for another two years.
“It’s a long process,” Son Tran said. “They had a good education here, some college life, and they are still beginning their lives, especially Desiree, but I think they both work really hard and have a good life, both playing tennis here at BYU.”
Desiree Tran, 20, began her collegiate experience as a 17-year-old out of Lake Elsinore, Calif., where she, along with her sister, who is two years her junior, attended Julian Charter School for a time before they were both pulled out to be home schooled by their mother. This allowed them to be coached by their father and have more time to improve on the court.
“It was really difficult,” Son Tran said. “We had to dedicate a lot of time. I work night shifts, and when I come home, I train them before I go to sleep. She (Quynh-Anh) quit her full-time job and became part time so she could help them with homework because they were home schooled. We tried to train them as well as the girls in the academy, but at home. It was a lot of dedication.”
Quynh-Anh Tran experienced firsthand what it was like to be both mother and teacher after the girls began studying at home but felt it was rewarding and worth it in the end.
“It was hard because after being a mom and teacher at home, helping them out with what I can,” Quynh-Anh Tran said. “He deals with tennis, and I deal with the academics at home. It’s tough, but I learn at the same time.”
The dedication the girls put into their studies was matched by their tennis training as they frequently spent time abroad attending tennis tournaments, including a five-month stint in Argentina.
“They learned the hard life over there,” Quynh-Anh Tran said. “It’s not an easy life over there — they both walked half an hour from the apartment to the club, and it felt much like a missionary, where you walk and bike, and that’s what they did.”
The Tran sisters’ competitive nature started when they were young, trying sports such as swimming and gymnastics, but eventually they were introduced to tennis and immediately fell in love with the sport.
“I’d say on the team we’re not as competitive as much as when we were younger,” Desiree Tran said. “When we’re at home we couldn’t count the score because one of us would get mad. So we would just play the points.”
Because she enrolled at BYU as a 17-year-old, Desiree Tran got a jump on playing tennis her first year and will graduate next April, spending her last year working toward her bachelor’s degree in order to potentially apply to PA school. All the while, she will be a strong support to her sister on the tennis court.
This year Desiree Tran, who dealt with various injuries during the season, went 4-5 in singles play, and 4-4 in doubles, including a dramatic win against San Diego in the No. 5 singles on April 12 that helped her team to a final home win, sealing an undefeated home record for the Cougars for the first time since 1998.
“Dez was able to win her last match at home, and Nicolette was able to stay tough and pull it out,” said BYU head coach Lauren Jones-Spencer. “We decided as kind of a joke: Do it for Dez. It was awesome that it came down to them, and they were able to pull it out.”
The Trans aren’t the only siblings on the team, as Jones-Spencer and her sister, Mayci, who is in her first year on the team as a freshman competing in the No. 1 singles spot, likewise share a familial bond that has strengthened and pushed the team to levels unforeseen at the start of the season.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Jones-Spencer said. “I’ve known the Trans since the end of my senior year here at BYU. They are great girls, and it’s been fun to have them on the team.
The hard work and dedication put in by Nicolette and Desiree Tran is reflected in the satisfied faces of their parents, who traveled from their home town of Lake Elsinore, Calif., to nearly every match at BYU and every match in southern California throughout their daughters’ collegiate careers.
“We are very happy,” Son Tran said. “It’s a long process to get where they are, and they deserve all of their accomplishments, and hopefully they learn from it.”
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