WSU Tennis Coach Lisa Hart Values Success in all Phases of Life

Original: Tennis coach values success in all phases of life

Photo courtesy of WSU Athletics (

Photo courtesy of WSU Athletics (

Published 1/30/2013 6:00:00 AM

Comments (1)

In order to thrive as a student athlete, one must seek excellence in all aspects of life, both on the court and off.

Perhaps no one realizes this better than WSU Women’s Tennis Head Coach Lisa Hart who successfully turned her competitive and academic career into a decade-long coaching tenure with the Cougars.

Hart first picked up a racket at around six or seven years old. She fell in love with the sport after her brother, Brian, let her tag along to play tennis.

Hart hit her stride at Sunnyside High School where she became a three-time State champion with All-American honors during her sophomore season.

She played tennis collegiately at Nebraska where she was the 1995 Big Eight Freshman of the Year, a two-time all-conference team selection, and ultimately became one of the school’s winningest women’s tennis players.

Her 74 career singles victories as a senior earned her No. 3 on the school’s career victories record board. She went on to win the Big 12 Conference’s No. 2 singles title.

In addition to her impressive playing statistics, she received the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s (ITA)Cissie Learie Sportsmanship Award for the Central Region and the Arthur Ashe Sportsmanship and Leadership Award during her time at Nebraska.

Hart graduated from Nebraska with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and earned a master’s in education with an emphasis in physical education and sports studies.

Hart knew that coaching tennis was precisely what she wanted to do to make the most of her experience and education.

“I love teaching and coaching involves a great deal of it,” she said. “Coaching allowed me to combine the best of both worlds in my love and passion for both the sport of tennis and teaching.”

Hart was also an exemplary student, earning academic all-conference selections three times and first-team academic All-Big 12 honors her senior year.

Leading by example, Hart makes sure her players realize their own academic potential and reach their on-court abilities.

In each of the last six seasons, the Cougars have received the ITA All-Academic team award.

“It’s a testament to their work ethic and how much time they put into their work both on the court and in academics,” said Hart. “They strive to not only win matches but to get top marks in the classroom. They’re really good kids.”

Having recorded 109 victories and trips to the NCAA Championships in 2008 and 2012, there’s no denying that Coach Hart has made a positive impact on the Cougar tennis program.

She said she enjoys her job every day and is motivated to shape her young women into great athletes and all-around people.

“I love coaching at the collegiate level because of the progress you can watch and help with. There is so much growing that happens when a young athlete comes in here at 18 and leaves when they’re 22 not only on the court but also in their lives,” Hart said.

Hart says she is really excited about and proud of this year’s squad and sees big things for WSU tennis both now and in the immediate future.

“We expect to make the Sweet 16 this year. We made the round of 32 last year so the team collectively wants to go at least one more step.”

Luckily for Cougar sports fans, Hart seems to be the perfect fit for WSU tennis and looks to be right at home here in Pullman, where she resides with her husband John, and two young children.

She has been revered for her dedication to the community during her time leading the Cougars including being a four-time recipient of the Community Service Award by the United States Tennis Association.

“I grew up in eastern Washington and absolutely love Pullman so I always wanted to get back to this area,”Hart said.”To combine big-time athletics in the Pac-12 with a town like Pullman is quite frankly a dream job.”


No Time to Rest Yet: A Profile on WSU Tennis Sensation Liudmila Vasilieva

Original: No Time to Rest Yet

Photo courtesy of WSU Athletics (

Photo courtesy of WSU Athletics (

PULLMAN, Wash. From Russia to Pullman, Liudmila Vasilieva and her tennis racket found a home away from home with the WSU tennis team.

Vasilieva, a senior, will finish her impressive collegiate tennis career this year, but not before playing to reach the NCAA Tournament and break a university record.

With 102 career victories, Vasilieva, known as “Luda” to her teammates and coaches, sits just six singles wins behind WSU’s all-time wins leader Elisabeth Fournier.

Last week against Montana, Vasilieva earned her 100th career singles victory and became just the second WSU tennis player to reach the milestone.

She followed up with singles wins against Nevada and Portland.

Vasilieva attributes her success to never giving up on the court, no matter the odds.

“I’m a fighter, it’s just my nature,” she said. “There is no game like tennis where you can come back from unbelievable deficits only because of your fight.”

She also said setting the bar higher for herself, as well as expecting and preparing for success, has led to positive results she enjoys both on the court and in the classroom.

The chance to make sports history at WSU would be a privilege but Vasilieva will continue to root for future Cougar tennis players in their own endeavors, she said.

“I’m really looking forward to beating this record, but I expect WSU tennis to continue to improve every year,” she said. “If somebody were to beat my record someday I’ll be just as happy knowing that the program has become even better.”

Despite acknowledging that the record is indeed lingering in her mind, Vasilieva said team accomplishments such as WSU’s trip to the NCAA Championships last season mean much more to her and always come before individual accolades.

“It was a great experience to go to the tournament as a team,” she said. “I was so proud of my teammates and to be a part of that winning environment. Those are the memories that will always stay with me.”

Vasilieva came to Pullman from Yekaterinburg, Russia, where she first picked up a tennis racket at around seven or eight years old tagging along with her father.

Making the transition from a big city populated with more than 1,000,000 people to a small college town shocked her at first, but focusing on her studies and tennis career helped to ease her through the move.

“It didn’t make much of a difference because at the end of the day, I don’t have time for all the features big cities offer,” said Vasilieva.

When she first started considering college, not many coaches contacted her and she received few scholarship offers to play in the United States. In fact, she nearly attended a different school altogether until current WSU Head Coach Lisa Hart personally called her to explain the benefits of Pac-12 athletics.

“She made me realize that this was the place where I truly belonged,” Vasilieva said. “I knew I wanted to play Pac-12 tennis and be a part of the family environment where everyone supported each other here.”

And she does not regret her decision for a minute.

“I definitely think Pullman is the perfect place to develop as a student and tennis player,” Vasilieva said. “It has been a great place for me to learn and grow.”

Although Pullman is like a second home, she said she misses her friends, family and food in Russia. She resorts to the CUB’s offerings for lunch only when she doesn’t have the time to cook.

“I was surprised that American food is so unhealthy,” she said. “The healthiest thing in the CUB is Subway, and I just cannot eat that every day, that’s for sure.”

“For me, a sandwich is not a lunch because in Russia we have good dishes like potatoes with fish and soup and things that are healthy for you.”

Still, tennis drives her to work hard here at WSU.

Vasilieva and the Cougar tennis team are optimistic about their chances to return to the NCAA tournament this year and go even further than last season’s finish, which was in the final 32 teams.

“It would be an honor for me as a senior to go back to the tournament and experience it all again with my teammates,” she said. “I feel very confident in all my teammates and I know they’ll fight to the end with me and be the best that they can be.”

After graduating in May, Vasilieva said she hopes to train at a tennis academy in pursuit of a professional career. She will pursue her goal to reach Fournier’s record during this weekend’s matches against Boise State in Pullman.

“I would play tennis 24 hours a day if I could, but for now I must also study,” she said. “When you love something like I love tennis, you don’t need an inspiration to get out and play because I know I will have so much fun doing it.”