Inspiring player works to continue her success

By Tyler Davis

The SIU women’s tennis team is coming off two consecutive record-setting seasons and owes a portion of that success to junior Natasha Tomishima.

Tomishima, from Campo Grande, Brazil, led the team in victories last year and was a top-three player on a team that finished with a school record 19 wins and second in conference to Wichita State.

Last spring Tomishima and alumna Jennifer Dien won conference in doubles and Tomishima again won doubles in the fall semester with senior Korey Love.


Amidst all the success of last year, there were tough patches along the way, Tomishima said. Tomishima is of Japanese descent and lived in Brazil her entire life before coming to Carbondale to play tennis.

Tomishima said learning the language was her biggest obstacle. To make it worse, she was learning how to juggle life in a new country, new friends, a full slate of college classes and of course, play Division I tennis.

“It was hard to communicate at first,” she said. “I had a hard time because everyone was talking too fast and Americans use a lot of expressions, but my teammates helped me a lot. For a foreign student-athlete your team is like your family.”

Tomishima attributed a lot of her improvement in getting used to the new culture from her freshman roommate and former Saluki tennis player, Siera Hasler. Hasler later transferred and is now a junior at Saint Francis Nursing School in Peoria.

“Siera helped me out the most because I lived with her,” Tomishima said. “She was very nice and very patient with me. It was probably hard for her at first.”

Hasler said there was a language gap but she knew Tomishima would get through it.

“She was very sweet and shy at first because she wasn’t fluent in English,” Hasler said. “I knew she had a good heart when I met her.”

Through patience and teaching, the two began a friendship that helped improve their relationship with others and their play on the court.

“I treated her the way I would want to be treated in that situation, and she helped me,” Hasler said. “She always encouraged me if I ever got down. We were a support system for each other on and off the court.”

Coming off of a successful spring season, Tomishima was finally getting used to her new life. However her junior year season started sourly, as she contracted chicken pox.

The illness forced her into a three-day hospital stay and she was told s to rest for two months before resuming tennis activity. She was also held out of classes for two weeks.

Coach Audra Anderson said her return was highly anticipated but was also a bit rocky.

“She got in (matches) and of course when you have chicken pox, it takes months to recover to be a full 100 percent,” Anderson said. “She would get tired after every match so basically the whole fall she wasn’t 100 percent.”

Tomishima said she returned early because she wanted to play. Even before her first match of the fall, she was spending days watching her teammates practice when she should have been resting.

Without rest, Tomishima still managed quite an impressive showing in the fall conference tournament.

“She’d play these matches where she’d start cramping because she wasn’t physically ready,” Anderson said. “You’d start to see her cramp at the end of the second set and somehow she’d find a way to win it… then go win another set. With most players, you don’t see that.”

Her courage was met with respect from her teammates and coaches. She even returned the next day to compete again but her body had had enough.

“The (matches) were tough,” Tomishima said. “I kept getting short of breath, my vision was blacking out and I wanted to throw up.”

“She (cramped up) one day, and then the next day, she did it again,” Anderson said. “Same thing, third set. In the second day, she wasn’t able to pull it through because the cramping was much, much worse. She was lying on the ground.”

Shortly after losing her singles match because of sickness, Tomishima was scheduled to play in a doubles match just 15 minutes later. Seeing that she was not 100 percent, the team trainer Ryan Schneider, Coach Anderson and her doubles partner urged Tomishima to quit for the day.

Tomishima would not quit.

“She gets up after ten minutes, barely can stand and goes out and wins that double match,” Anderson said. “It was unbelievable. As a coach you know that when someone cramps up they may have one set left in them. What she did was unbelievable.”

Expectations are high for the talented Brazilian and this year’s women’s tennis team. With new, foreign transfers there may be another story like Tomishima’s brewing.

Tomishima and the tennis team begin their road to conference Feb. 1 in Fayetteville, Ark.