Sac State women’s tennis captain trains overseas and connects with team virtually

Captain+of+the+Sac+State+women%27s+tennis+team+Frana+Ugarkovic+poses+with+her+racquet+on+Oct.+2%2C+2020.+For+health+and+safety+reasons+Ugarkovic+is+currently+in+Croatia+practicing+for+senior+season.

Courtesy of Frana Ugarkovic

Captain of the Sac State women’s tennis team Frana Ugarkovic poses with her racquet on Oct. 2, 2020. For health and safety reasons Ugarkovic is currently in Croatia practicing for senior season.

Emmely Ramirez

Sacramento State senior and women’s tennis captain Frana Ugarkovic is currently in Croatia, unable to be with her team in Sacramento due to COVID-19.

“Our coach basically said that we could go home if that was a safer option for us and my parents were worried as well,” Ugarkovic said. “I have health insurance in Croatia, so just in case it would be safer.”

Ugarkovic started to play tennis when she was 3 years old and played all throughout high school in Bahrain. When she was 14 years old, her coach talked to her about playing tennis in college in the United States, and since then Ugarkovic said that it became her dream to play tennis for a college in the U.S.

Ugarkovic posted a video of her playing tennis and sent it out to colleges. She was offered to play for Sac State, and after an interview she said she knew it was the right fit for her.

“I dreamed about living in California, so once I got the offer at Sac State to play tennis there it was the biggest thing ever,” Ugarkovic said.

Even though she cannot practice with her team in-person, Ugarkovic has made a new routine for herself to get ready for the next tennis season, which will start in January said head coach Cameron Hubbs.

Ugarkovic said she misses the Sac State tennis courts and was looking forward to her last year of college athletics, which is something that she has worked for her whole life.

Ugarkovic said she tries to practice three to four times a week, and that her family has become what keeps her motivated to get up and stay focused.

Womens tennis captain Frana Ugarkovic in Zadar, Croatia on Sept.13, 2020, while traveling around Croatia with friends. Ugarkovic opted to return home to Croatia where she has health coverage, while athletics are still on hold at Sac State. (Courtesy of Frana Ugarkovic)

Some of the team is still able to practice on the Sac State courts, but it is only the students who live in California and felt the most comfortable to stay, Ugarkovic said.

“We fortunately have half the team on campus able to train,” Hubbs said. “For the other ones that are staying in their home countries for the time being, we keep in touch via text, phone and Zoom.”

Ugarkovic said that their Zoom calls consist of catching up, sharing information on the different countries some players are currently in and any important updates made by the coach.

“It’s also hard without the coaches because when we are in person, they are always there to correct me or help me improve my game,” Ugarkovic said. “I know that they are only a phone call away and always ready to help me or give me advice, but it’s not the same as on court or in-person.”

Senior and fellow teammate Ege Tomey, who is currently back home in Izmir, Turkey, shared similar experiences with Ugarkovic.

“It’s really hard to not be with my teammates because I’m really used to them and practicing with them,” Tomey said. “Especially since we are all in different countries and cities, it’s really hard for us to be in touch and with the Zoom calls, it really feels different.” 

Sophomore and tennis teammate Jayden Nielsen, talked about her memories with Ugarkovic from meeting her for the first time and feeling welcomed, to creating memories going to Old Sacramento to eat and take pictures.

“Frana has a very busy schedule as she is a D1 student athlete,” Nielsen said. 

“Frana will always put others’ needs before hers, which is one of the most admirable things about her,” Nielsen added.

Along with creating relationships with her teammates, Ugarkovic has also gained a relationship with her coach.

“Frana is one of the most eager and disciplined student athletes I’ve ever worked with,” Hubbs said. “My first impression was that she was excited to be playing for Sacramento State and she would do anything to get herself to be the best she could be.”

Ugarkovic said although these times are difficult, her advice for other international sports students is to take care of themselves and look forward to the future despite the challenges of being at home.