Attending BYU wouldn’t seem the norm for two devout Catholics from Southern California whose parents immigrated to the United States from Vietnam. But that hasn’t stopped the Tran sisters from making an impact on campus.
Desiree Tran, a junior and exercise science major, and Nicolette Tran, a freshman still deciding on her major, have been making the most of their unlikely journey to BYU and their time together on the women’s tennis team.
The sisters began playing tennis 10 years ago — Desiree as a 9-year-old and Nicolette as a 7-year-old. They just wanted to pick up a sport, and since their parents were always playing tennis, it seemed like a natural fit.
It was at this time the Trans would also move to Murrieta, Calif. This turned out to be a decisive move for their tennis future and their future decisions to come to BYU.
Moving is never easy, and for kids trying to acclimate to a new city, find new friends and get used to a new school, it can be especially difficult. The Trans made the most of the opportunity and found a friend at their elementary school named Meghan.
Meghan turned out to be Meghan Sheehan-Dizon, who is currently a sophomore at BYU and a member of the BYU tennis team with a personal 5–2 record this season.
“Meghan said she played (tennis) and told us we should come,” Desiree Tran said. “So, we went to the tennis club with her, and that’s how we got more into tennis.”
Like most kids, they picked up the game to have fun and pass the time. It was fun to play, even for Nicolette, who seemed to have a knack for falling down.
“I just remember some stories,” Nicolette Tran said. “I used to fall a lot on the tennis court. I’d just run backwards and trip and fall.”
The more they played tennis and the better they got, the less the sisters fell and the more they realized their futures might lie in tennis.
The improvement wasn’t lost on the Trans’ parents. They were the first to support Desiree and Nicolette Tran in their tennis ambitions — and did everything they could to help.
“When I was in sixth grade my parents asked us, ‘Do you want to go pro?’ and we were like, ‘Yeah,’” Desiree Tran said. “That’s when we became homeschooled. So we had two tennis courts at our house, and we even lived in Argentina for five months just to train and practice for tennis.”
Desiree and Nicolette Tran entertained the prospect of playing professional tennis for many years and practiced at least six hours a day. As time passed, they decided that professional tennis wasn’t something they really wanted to do. Instead they decided to keep training, but now it was to play in college.
For a Catholic family from California, BYU wasn’t the first school that came to mind; it might even have been the last.
When Desiree Tran was a freshman in high school and Nicolette Tran was in seventh grade, they met the Jones family. It didn’t seem like much at the time, but the Jones family had two daughters, including Lauren. Lauren is better known now as Lauren Jones-Spencer, the head coach of BYU’s women’s tennis team.
“I met them over six years ago,” Jones-Spencer said. “They trained with my (younger) sister, and I was still playing so I would go out and train with them as well. Ever since then we’ve remained close friends.”
BYU might not have been entertained as an option at first, but as Desiree progressed through high school, the thought of going to BYU became more of a possibility.
“We kept in touch with (the Joneses), and I was committed to another school,” Desiree said. “I was going to stay local, and then Lauren said I should take a look at BYU.”
Desiree ended up taking an unofficial visit her junior year; she got a feel for BYU and liked it.
At that time Jones-Spencer was an assistant coach at BYU, but soon after she was offered the head coaching spot, and the first player she thought of was Desiree.
“When they asked me to be the coach, the first thing I did was call Dez and say, ‘Hey do you want to come in early?’” Jones-Spencer said. “She actually graduated early and came in to play for me, which was a huge help.”
In the end, the Trans and their parents felt BYU was a great fit. They were already accustomed to the Honor Code, it was a safe area and good environment, and BYU had great academics. It seemed natural for Desiree Tran two years ago and now for Nicolette Tran.
“A lot of people ask me, ‘How do you like it here; how do you adjust?’ and I ask, ‘What do you mean?’” Nicolette Tran said. “They say, ‘You’re not Mormon, everyone is Mormon here,’ and for me my best friend is Mormon, so it’s no different. I fit well here.”
In their first season together, Desiree Tran is 5–2, and Nicolette Tran is 6–1. The sisters have been pivotal in helping this 2013 Cougar squad get off to its best start since 2006 — when Jones-Spencer was still playing for BYU.
“The best thing is the team,” Desiree Tran said. “We’re unified and like sisters.”