Cowichan Bay tennis player Grace Haugen takes part in an exhibition at the South Cowichan Lawn Tennis Club in 2019, which also included Canadian legends Frank Dancevic and Daniel Nestor. Haugen has committed to further her career at the University of Montana starting next fall. (Citizen file)

Cowichan Bay tennis player Grace Haugen takes part in an exhibition at the South Cowichan Lawn Tennis Club in 2019, which also included Canadian legends Frank Dancevic and Daniel Nestor. Haugen has committed to further her career at the University of Montana starting next fall. (Citizen file)

Cowichan Bay tennis player prepares for next step in her journey

Grace Haugen commits to University of Montana

Grace Haugen is ready for the next step in her tennis career, but will tennis be ready for her?

The 17-year-old from Cowichan Bay has committed to play for the University of Montana women’s tennis team next year, and she’s optimistic that there will be a full NCAA tennis season to play in.

“The coach said most likely they’ll have stuff figured out for playing regularly by then,” said Haugen, a Grade 12 student at Cowichan Secondary School. “Hopefully that will be true.”

The UM Grizzlies were supposed to start the 2020-21 NCAA tennis season this coming weekend, but their visit to Gonzaga University in Spokane has been postponed due to COVID-19 protocols, and it’s impossible to tell at this point how much of the rest of the season will be played.

Although Haugen didn’t have a chance to visit the campus in Missoula prior to committing to the school before Christmas — again, because of COVID-19 — she has heard great things about UM. Fellow Islander Hannah Sulz, a Qualicum Beach product who was trained by the same coach as Haugen, played at Montana for three years and raved about the facilities and the environment. Although she talked to other programs, UM was always the front-runner.

“I’ve always been in contact with them, as soon as I started talking to schools,” Haugen noted.

It helps that they have the academic program she wants to pursue.

“They have a really good physiotherapy school,” she said. “And that’s what I want to go into.”

Haugen has also talked to current members of the Grizzlies team, and described them as “sweet” with a “family environment.

“Montana really clicked for me,” she said.

Haugen got her start in tennis six and a half years ago when the South Cowichan Lawn Tennis Club held a clinic during a teachers’ strike. Prior to that, she had never held a racket. Coaches there said she had potential, so she entered a rookie tournament in Victoria.

In early 2019, she won U16 provincial indoor singles and doubles titles, then took second in doubles and sixth in singles at nationals. Later that year, she won the U16 provincial outdoor doubles title with partner Stefanie Da Silva, and placed fifth in singles, and finished second in the U18 singles and doubles tournaments. At the U18 outdoor nationals that same year, she and partner Alexandra Nielsen reached the finals, and at the U16 outdoor nationals, she reached the singles consolation final, and made the quarter-finals in doubles with partner Hana Gamracy.

Last March, Haugen placed third in singles and second in doubles with partner Reece Carter at the U18 indoor provincials, and was on her way to another tournament in Las Vegas when everything shut down due to the pandemic. The rest of the indoor and outdoor seasons were cancelled.

While she hasn’t been able to compete for most of the last year, Haugen has been able to practice.

“I’m still managing to train as much as before,” she said. “Tennis is more of a social distance-y sport. We can’t play doubles, but I’m still playing lots of matches, just no actual tournaments.”

Before she got into tennis, Haugen was a competitive motocross racer, and UM coach Steve Ascher acknowledged in a story on the school’s athletics website that her multi-sport ability was one of the reasons he recruited her.

“You’re always looking for someone that does other things because I think you learn so much about yourself by pursuing other disciplines. But how good is dirt biking? That’s an aggressive — bike falls down in the mud, and I have to pick it up and keep going – kind of sport. I really like that,” he said.

“She is really competitive. I like that about her too. She wants to be out there playing, and she’s a good overall athlete. She’s hungry and has a ton of upside in her game.”

Haugen will join the Grizzlies with a 9.26 Universal Tennis Rating, the second-highest UTR on the team, and one of the best in the Big Sky conference. Ascher believes she has the talent to help the team right from the start, and that’s what she wants to do.

“I hope I can contribute to the girls team,” she said. “I hope I can help them make the NCAA tournament. That’s my dream, and it would be so exciting for the team to make the tournament.”


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police have identified the vehicle involved in the Feb. 14 hit-and-run in Chemainus and are continuing to investigate. (Black Press Media files)
Police seize and identify suspect vehicle in fatal Chemainus hit-and-run

Investigation expected to be lengthy and involved

The Cowichan Women Against Violence Society is planning on opening a child and youth advocacy centre. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Child and youth advocacy centre eyed for Cowichan

Cowichan Women Against Violence Society hopes to open centre later this year

CVRD to apply for a grant to improve a 4.85-kilometre section of the Cowichan Valley Trail near Shawnigan Lake. (File photo)
CVRD looks to improve section of Cowichan Valley Trail

District applies for $250,000 grant to widen, upgrade 4.8-kilometre section in Shawnigan Lake

Cowichan Valley writer Jennifer Manuel will headlining YakFest on March 1. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Cowichan Valley writer to headline next YakFest on March 1

YakFest is a B.C.-based monthly women’s event held online via Zoom

A boat caught fire in Ladysmith Harbour early on Saturday, Feb. 27. (Photo submitted)
Search underway for missing woman after boat catches fire in Ladysmith harbour

A large boat caught fire on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 27

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19 vaccination set to start for B.C. seniors aged 80-plus

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hills using a homemade trip camera. Vancouver Island is home to approximately 800 cougars, which makes up about a quarter of the total population in B.C. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hill using a homemade trip camera. Schroyen presents Animal Signs: The Essence of Animal Communication on Nov. 30. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Declining Vancouver Island cougar populations linked to wolves

Large carnivore specialist says human development still plays biggest role on cougar numbers

(Black Press file photo)
Child in critical condition, homicide investigators probe incident near Agassiz

The child was transported to hospital but is not expected to survive

Sewage plant in Lower Mainland, operated by Metro Vancouver. (Metro Vancouver screenshot)
‘Poop tracker’ launches as researchers test Lower Mainland sewage water for COVID-19

‘Studying the virus in wastewater allows researchers to look at an entire population…’

This poster, spreading misinformation regarding COVID-19 restrictions, has been popping up in communities across Vancouver Island.
UPDATED: Poster popping up in Island communities falsely claiming COVID restrictions are over

Unattributed poster claims COVID restrictions ended March 1; Island Health responds

Compensation fund opens for B.C. students negatively affected by incorrect exam marks

Marks for 2019 provincial exams were incorrectly tabulated

Most Read