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Women’s tennis stars from overseas help Falcons

September 20, 2007

For most students, UW-River Falls is located only a few hours away from their home. But for two members of the women’s tennis team, River Falls is practically across the globe from what they consider their hometown.

Freshmen Kozue Matsumoto is from Kasuga, Japan and Joan Wangui is originally from Nairobi, Kenya.

Wangui moved from Nairobi to the United States a few years back and lived near the Twin Cities.

“Playing tennis is the basic thing,” Wangui said. “The other thing is the climate is different here. It’s colder. But I didn’t have too many problems adjusting when I came here.”

Currently, Wangui is working her way up the ladder, like a number of other freshmen on the squad. Besides Wangui and Matsumoto, there are seven other freshmen on the team.

The team also has four sophomores, one who was a redshirt last season, two juniors and no seniors.

Prior to coming to River Falls, Matsumoto received an offer for a full scholarship at Division I Ohio State to play tennis.

However, before being allowed to attend the university, she had to pass her Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam.

To attend a DI school, like Ohio State, Matsumoto would have had to score a 550 on the exam. However, to play for River Falls she only needed a 500.

After meeting with head coach Lee Lueck she decided that River Falls would be a good fit for her first year of school, so she came here in March of 2007 to begin to prepare for her exam.

Once she passed the exam in August, Lueck did all he could to help make sure that she would be ready for the start of the school year.

“I helped to make sure she got all her classes, she has 15 credits,” Lueck said. “And we got her a physical and got her eligibility forms. …when we went to St. Norbert she was eligible.”

Matsumoto said that Lueck and the coaching staff has been nice to her this season.

Currently, Matsumoto is playing in the No. 1 singles position and is boasting a team best record at 7-0.

When asked about her undefeated record, Matsumoto was very modest in her response.

She said she felt she was playing “pretty good.”

She also is playing doubles for the first time with sophomore teammate Kathryne Ostrowski.

“She’s amazing,” Ostrowski said of her partner. “I forget how amazing she us until I play with her. Sometimes, as the sophomore, and her being the freshman, I feel intimidated trying to tell her what to do.”

The team started off with a 4-0 record heading into the Sept. 15 match-ups. They played UW-Whitewater, a team which Lueck has never beat in his coaching tenure and Div. I UW-Milwaukee.

Lueck said in recent memory he couldn’t remember a time when the Falcons have faced a Div. I school. He continued to say that the only reason it was on the schedule was because he wanted to give Matsumoto some experience with Div. I players.

Matsumoto beat her Milwaukee opponent 6-1, 6-3.

Overall the Falcons lost to Whitewater 7-2 and to Milwaukee 8-1.

While there is some talk of Matsumoto transferring to a Div. I school next year, Lueck thinks that staying at River Falls would be a good fit for her.

“She knows the campus community, the coaching staff and the players. She has a built in support system,” Lueck said. “At a Div. I school she’s still an individual, but in a big system. I feel she may get more personalized care here.”

Matsumoto was recently named the WIAC athlete of the week for the first time this season.

“She is so talented and is going to get so much publicity,” Lueck said. “Here, she is going to stand out.”

The Falcons were on the road Tuesday to take on conference opponent UW-Stout. They fell to the Blue Devils 5-4.

The Falcons next match is at home against UW-Stevens Point. Matches get underway at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 28 at the Ramer Field Tennis Complex. They will also play at home at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Sept. 29 against UW-Oshkosh and Bethel University respectively.