CNMI national player Isabel Heras will leave Saipan this Thursday to resume her collegiate tennis career.
Heras, who represented the Commonwealth in the Pacific Games in Samoa last year, will go to Colorado to join her new team—Metropolitan State University-Denver. The 20-year-old athlete has been officially listed on the Roadrunners’ roster and is one of four juniors on the squad. She debuted in the collegiate ranks with Dixie State University in Utah and had a fruitful freshman season after winning the Rookie of the Year honors (2018-2019 season) in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and helping the Trailblazers win in the finals, incidentally against her new team.
With her impressive showing in her rookie year, Heras is hoping to make an impact with MSU. However, despite setting high expectations for herself, she does not feel so much pressure of being one of the players in the upper class and a transferee.
“I do not feel any pressure being one of the four juniors because I have played against MSU Denver when I played for Dixie. I also shared the co-freshman RMAC Conference award with Helena [Steenberg], who plays high in the roster. I believe I can make an impact in the MSU team by my doubles play. I have been playing at the No. 1 seed at Dixie for my freshman and sophomore year and I believe that will be a good asset,” said Heras.
The CNMI player’s transfer to MSU-Denver comes as the Roadrunners will make their debut in the Pacific West Conference. The group has a very competitive field that also includes Hawaii Pacific University, Azusa Pacific University, Fresno Pacific, Point Lorna Nazarene, University of Hawaii-Hilo, Corcordia (Irvine), Academy of Arts, Dominican University of California, Biola University, Chaminade University, and Holy Names University. RMAC ceased to support both the men’s and women’s tennis programs, but fortunately for MSU, head coach Josh Graetz managed to help the Roadrunners secure affiliate-member status in the PAC-West.
To prepare for her first season with the Roadrunners and the anticipated high-level competition in the PAC-West, Heras spent her vacation on Saipan training with CNMI Sports Hall of Famer and long-time national team coach Jeff Race.
“I was able to train with coach Jeff and the Aces tennis group three times,” said Heras, who is one of the three CNMI players that will be seeing action in collegiate tennis this year. The two others are Carol Lee and Robbie Schorr—Heras’ teammates in last year’s Pacific Games—who left for Atlanta and Missouri, respectively.
Heras will debut for the Roadrunners at these trying times (COVID-19 pandemic), but vows to persevere under the challenging conditions.
“Approaching this season, there will be a lot of changes and rules to follow due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our practice and gym times are unaffected as of now and there will be rules, like taking temperatures and the amount of people allowed on the court. I want to make the best out of the situation,” Heras said.
Barring changes to the 2020-2021 schedule due to the pandemic, Heras and company’s season is slated to start on Sept. 5 with the staging of the MSU Denver Invitational. The Roadrunners are then set to challenge CSU-Pueblo the following weekend, while they will also face Midwestern State in another dual meet before debuting in the PAC-West against Azusa in March next year.