Tennis teammates Maria Lora from Cali, Colombia, and Sofia Fortuño from Caracas, Venezuela, moved to the U.S. from their home countries after high school to further their tennis careers at Texas State.
From playing in tennis tournaments in South America to coming to San Marcos to play the sport they love, their relationship as friends and roommates has made the transition to the U.S. easier.
The bond that Lora and Fortuño share stems from both of their Latin heritages, and they attribute their bond to their Latin connection. They take the opportunity of their relationship to learn more about each other's cultures.
"We learn from other cultures," Fortuño said. "It makes you appreciate the people more... even if you're like from different countries... but you're Hispanic, you're always going to have that connection"
After playing tennis in South America and traveling to various countries to play tournaments, Lora, a finance sophomore, and Fortuño, a marketing sophomore, reached out to their respective friends who played tennis at Texas State.
Both girls received scholarships to play at Texas State and were welcomed by previous tennis head coach Tory Plunkett to play for the 2021-2022 season. They got each other's numbers from Plunkett and became roommates their freshman year at San Marcos Hall and still live together off campus.
Tennis head coach Kendall Brooks said the two clicked right away.
"They immediately kind of formed that bond together," Brooks said. "They both have great personalities, they're a lot of fun, they like to laugh a lot at each other and at themselves... they bring good energy to the team."
Lora and Fortuño said that the Latin culture they share is warm and inviting, a sentiment that is shared by Brooks.
“I love the culture, I love how the community is very family-oriented, they love everyone… and have great energy, I love it," Brooks said.
Living and playing together has provided both homesickness relief and bonding material for the Bobcat tennis players. Around their current residence, they speak Spanish to each other, watch Texas State soccer and enjoy similar music, specifically Bad Bunny.
"The [Latin] music brings so many people together...[people] say being Hispanic is cool and that they wanna learn [Spanish],” Lora said.
The two roommates, with the support of their respective parents, thought the move to the U.S. wouldn't be hard. While the close relationship between Lora, Fortuño and the rest of the tennis team has certainly eased their transition, missing family isn't rare for the two.
Homesickness may not creep in all the time, but when Fortuño sees pictures of her little brother, it makes her miss her home in Venezuela.
"I thought it wasn't going to be that hard," Fortuño said. "The feeling that you're safe in your house and like your parents are there ... it's just different I guess."
Lora and Fortuño said they come from hardworking and supportive families who are proud of their journey to Texas.
"I feel we all come from hardworking families that had to work hard to get to where they are, which makes Hispanic people who came to the U.S. more thankful and appreciative of everything here in the states," Fortuño said. "My family is proud even though my mom sometimes jokingly says to return."
Lora and Fortuño are not the only Bobcat tennis players with an international upbringing. Five tennis players on the team are from various countries around the globe, and like Lora and Fortuño, the team bonds around their diverse heritages. Lora said that because of that, the team is very close to one another.
"We all come from different backgrounds, so it makes it more fun," Lora said. “I feel every girl in the team is a hard worker and we have great relationships."
Brooks believes that the diversity of her squad benefits the team.
Brooks, who has been coaching collegiate tennis since 2004, said that she takes the opportunity of having players with different backgrounds, like Lora and Fortuño, as an opportunity to better herself as a coach.
"Everybody comes from a different upbringing... and how they've been coached," Brooks said. "I think everyone brings something different, and that's a good thing... they've both taught me a lot about patience."
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