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Despite not playing tennis until he was 10, senior Søren Hess-Olesen has become a leader for Texas tennis, taking the ITA All-American award in 2013 and 2014.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

As he stands at the baseline of the tennis court, senior Søren Hess-Olesen makes his job look easy — but each of his victories and accolades are hard-earned.

Hess-Olesen, who was born in Aarhus, Denmark, came to tennis late in his childhood. Unlike many European tennis players, who are enrolled in academies from a very early age, Hess-Olesen didn’t start playing tennis until he was 10 years old.

“Soccer was definitely my main sport growing up,” Hess-Olesen said. “Around the age of 10, I started playing [tennis] with my twin brother Esben. It was evident I had talent from early on, but I wasn’t good enough to compete in tournaments.”

Even as he moved his way up to the No. 1 ranking among Danish youth, Hess-Olesen wasn’t highly desired by colleges in the United States. Instead, Hess-Olesen reached out to a number of college coaches throughout the country — including Texas head coach Michael Center.

“Honestly, he didn’t have a great résumé of matches and tournaments,” Center said. “[But] we started to call around and found out he’s a very good player, and I jumped on a plane and flew to Denmark as soon as I could.”

Playing under Center’s coaching proved integral for Hess-Olesen’s development as a player. Hess-Olesen began his career at the No. 1 singles spot as a freshman — a feat no Texas player had achieved since Dimitar Kutrovsky did so in 2007.

“Looking back, playing at the top spot from day one really helped my game,” Hess-Olesen said. “There was a lot of pressure, especially going up against the top players in the country, but it made me more mentally tough. That was something coach always stressed during practices and matches.”

Over the course of his sophomore and junior seasons, Hess-Olesen’s game continued to grow. He earned a long list of awards, including
the International Tennis Association All-American award in both 2013 and 2014. He capped off his junior season with an appearance in the semifinals of the NCAA Singles Championship, though he fell to the eventual champion, UCLA’s Marcos Giron.

Coming into this season, expectations were high for Hess-Olesen, who began the year ranked No. 13 in the nation. Hess-Olesen has managed to blow those expectations out of the water, reaching the No. 1 overall ranking in the most recent ITA polls.

As the 2014 NCAA Singles Championship semifinalist, 2014 Big 12 Player of the Year and 2013 and 2014 ITA All-American, Hess-Olesen is still adding to what will be a lasting legacy. But he said he hopes his legacy is defined in a different way.

“I want to be remembered as someone who did whatever he could to help his team,” Hess-Olesen said. “The awards are nice, but what’s really important to me is the work I put in to be the best player I could be.”

Business professor David Spence spoke as part of a panel Thursday for the University's Energy Week. Spence is part of a research team creating an online calculator that looks at the efficiency of different sources of electricity.
Photo Credit: Michael Baez | Daily Texan Staff

Researchers are working on new ways to reduce global dependence on fossil fuels for energy, according to Benjamin K. Sovacool, director of the Danish Center for Energy Technology at Aarhus University in Herning, Denmark. 

Sovacool, a professor of business and social sciences at Aarhus University and associate professor of law at Vermont Law School, spoke Thursday about the progressive measures Nordic countries are taking to reduce carbon dioxide emissions linked to climate change. The lecture was part of the University’s Energy Week, a series of conferences designed to showcase emerging technologies in the energy field.

Nordic countries have harnessed the power of renewable energy sources, including wind and waste, which has created more energy efficient buildings, according to Sovacool. He said the countries have made use of carbon capture and storage technology, which captures 90 percent of carbon dioxide emissions produced by fossil fuels. 

Denmark has also worked to join its energy resources and make them more efficient, Sovacool said. 

“The country has a lot of combined heat and power facilities,” Sovacool said. “There’s talk about integrating systems together, so we can provide heat, steam and pressure [energy] in one go.”

While Nordic countries have made advancements in renewable energy, they still have to make more changes to energy consumption if they are to reach their goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, according to Sovacool.

Sovacool said Nordic countries have worked on using renewable energy for decades, starting with the oil shock of 1973, when the price of oil spiked worldwide after an embargo by the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries.

“There was a national push for independence and sufficiency,” Sovacool said. “There was a desire for job and technological innovation and a rush to experiment with local sources of energy like water and waste.”

While Nordic countries have taken great steps towards using renewable energy, the city of Austin has also worked towards positive change, according to Matt Weldon, a member of the board of directors for Solar Austin, an organization that works to promote renewable energy.

“Austin was an early investor in wind projects, [and] Central Texas has low solar rooftop installation costs,” Weldon said. “The city of Austin is arguably ahead of its renewable energy goals.”

Kevin Merrill, a graduate student at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, said he was concerned about the cost of implementing similar measures in the United States.

“We need to focus on our inefficiencies and focus on a better way of transporting electricity,” Merrill said. “We need to focus on what is suitable and feasible.”

After helping Denmark advance to the Davis Cup, two-time All-American senior Søren Hess-Olesen has returned to Texas and will head to Napa Valley, California, to compete in the Napa Valley Tennis Classic.

Fellow seniors Lloyd Glasspool and Jacoby Lewis and junior Nick Naumann will join the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year in California while other Longhorns will head to Lafayette, Louisiana, to compete in the Cajun Tennis Classic.

Hess-Olesen, Glasspool and Naumann were listed in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association preseason rankings at No. 5, No. 31 and No. 113.

The Napa Valley Tennis Classic features American top junior tennis players competing against some of the country’s top collegiate players. Following three rounds of pool play, the pool winners will compete in a single-elimination, 10-point tiebreak tournament. The winner of the tournament will receive a wildcard entry into a USTA Pro Circuit event that is yet to be determined.

Representing eighth-ranked Texas in Louisiana are senior Adrien Berkowicz, sophomore George Goldhoff, junior Michael Riechmann, who recently transferred from
Brown University, and freshman John Mee.

Goldhoff ranked No. 56 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association preseason rankings, and Berkowicz made his debut as No. 106 in the rankings. 

Eight teams will be represented at the Cajun Tennis Classic, including fellow Big 12 teams Oklahoma State University and Texas Christian University, as well as ninth-ranked Georgia. 

Play begins Thursday at 9 a.m. and runs through Sunday.

Men's Tennis

Making the transition from high school to college can be tough. Making the transition from being a high school athlete to a college athlete is even tougher. Making that transition more than 5,000 miles away from home while speaking a different language can seem flat-out impossible.

But tennis player Soren Hess-Olesen hasn’t let those challenges, or the notorious Texas heat, affect his performance out on the courts in his first fall season in burnt orange.

Hess-Olesen was recruited out of Aarhus, the second-largest city and principle port of Denmark, by head coach Michael Center to join the Longhorns. Hess-Olesen’s recruitment started with an email sent by his father to Center about his son’s skills as a player.

As it turned out, associate head coach Ricardo Rubio knew Hess-Olesen’s coach, and after some reseach Center decided to fly to Denmark to see Hess-Olesen play in the Danish National Indoor Championships. Center liked what he saw and offered Hess-Olesen a scholarship.

“He’s a very good competitor,” said Center. “I felt like he would be a guy that would come in and be a very good player for us right away and continue to develop during his time here.”

For Hess-Olesen, the decision to travel 5,000 miles to Austin to play tennis wasn’t a difficult one.

“I hadn’t seen this place before, but I knew it was a good team with a tradition in sports and tennis,” Hess-Olesen said. “[From] the things [coach Center] told me about it, I just got excited by hearing that, so I never really doubted where I wanted to go.”

Tennis came to Hess-Olesen at an early age in life. His father used to play the sport and passed it down to Hess-Olesen and his brothers.

“When we went on vacations with my family, we just played a bit just for the fun of it,” Hess-Olesen said. “Then my older brother started to play. Then my twin brother and I started to play just one or two years after my older brother.”

He started playing competitively when he was 10 years old but split his time between tennis and soccer until he decided to focus solely on tennis at the age of 15. The decision paid off, as he quickly became one of the top players in Denmark and played with the Danish national team, which toured throughout Europe.

“When I was a sophomore, I started thinking about going to college to play tennis,” Hess-Olesen said. “For me, I had two choices: I could try and play full time in Denmark or go [to UT].”

Realizing that turning professional wasn’t the most viable option, Hess-Olesen started looking at the college route.

“Coach Center came to Denmark to watch me play and convince me to choose Texas, so I chose Texas,” he said. “I know if I want to be a better tennis player, this was the best choice I could make.”

While Hess-Olesen doesn’t think the move to Austin from Denmark gave him much of a culture shock, he does admit that there’s a difference in the competition he faces here.

“It’s really about the mental game,” he said. “You can lose to anybody here if you’re not mentally prepared because there are so many good players. Every single school has one or two top players, so the competition is so much bigger. It’s a challenge, [but] a good one.”

Hess-Olesen has done pretty well with that challenge so far this season. In four tournaments, he has made it to the finals in two, but perhaps the bigger feat was his run to the quarterfinals in the ITA All-American Championships, one of three championship tournaments on the collegiate tennis circuit.

After getting his career as a Longhorn off to a strong start, Hess-Olesen is ready to continue building on that success.

“I’m looking forward to the spring, to start competing against other schools,” Hess-Olesen said. “I hope we can win the Big 12 conference title because I know that’s a very prestigious thing.”

Published on Thursday, November 10, 2011 as: Hess-Olesen adjusts to UT after leaving native land

Nina Frausing Pedersen’s road to Texas was a long one.

As in 7,230 miles-long, the approximate distance between Auckland, New Zealand and Austin.

While the sophomore defender is a native of Silkeborg, Denmark, the prospect of playing for the Longhorns came about during the 2008 FIFA Women’s U-17 World Cup in New Zealand.

The Danish international dreamed of coming to America to continue her soccer career and she turned to Facebook, of all places, to make that dream a reality.

After the tournament, Frausing Pedersen sent a friend request to U-17 U.S. World Cup goalkeeper, Alexa Gaul, whom she had never met and who just happened to be the goalie for the Longhorns.

“We had no idea who each of us was,” Gaul said. “I remember we were in the same hotel at one point, but I had no idea who she was.”

At that point, Frausing Pedersen was simply looking for more information on how to contact coaches and the possibility of playing collegiately.

“I was just like, ‘you can talk to my coach, here’s his email,’” Gaul said. “And it all worked out. We just built a friendship over Facebook and just communicated through that and she just ended up coming here, which was awesome.”

The friendship grew so strong that the two have since become roommates.

“We talk about everything on the field and leave everything on the field,” Frausing Pedersen said. “But we can be straight up with each other if we need anything. She’ll tell me what to do and I’ll do it, and afterwards we can go talk about it if we want something done differently. But we have a really good relationship.”

After Texas head coach Chris Petrucelli made the trek to Denmark to see Frausing Pedersen play, he knew she had to come to Texas. Ultimately, in a choice between Stanford and Texas, she chose the Longhorns and Petrucelli credits Texas’ persistent recruiting in convincing her.

“I was excited when I watched her play,” Petrucelli said. “I saw someone who was really good athletically, solid technically and a hard worker.”

But Petrucelli acknowledges that there are some difficulties in recruiting international players, such as not being able to see them play often or differences in academic standards.

“There are culture issues and whether or not they want to go that far from home,” Petrucelli said. “I will say that Nina, early in her freshman year, struggled with some homesickness.”

But her team was always there for her.

“Our team took to Nina right away and they were certainly looking out for her and protecting her early on, but I’ll tell you what — right now, it’s almost like she’s a Texan with a Danish accent,”
Petrucelli said.

Now in her second year, things have become easier for Frausing Pedersen. She knows her teammates better and she’s more comfortable with the language and with Austin. She‘s more confident in her ability and has earned the trust of Petrucelli, who has put her in his starting 11 every match this season.

The Dane, who began playing soccer at age 4 because of her father, even scored her first goal as a Longhorn in a 2-1 victory over Iowa State. That, according to her, was her greatest accomplishment during her time in Austin.

Along with providing stability to the backline, Frausing Pedersen showed her versatility last Sunday against Seattle University when Petrucelli asked the central defender to start at forward, something she had never done before.

“We’re making it a little hard on her by moving her all around, but I thought she did well up front,” Petrucelli said. “But she has the ability to play at a number of different spots and she’s good at all of them.”

Despite the accolades, Frausing Pedersen remains grounded. She understands that the expectations for this team, and for her personally, are high. She also feels that there is more to accomplish this season.

“This year we have such a good team, so I think we can win the Big 12,” Frausing Pedersen said. “And hopefully we can go further than last year in the NCAA. But [the goal] is to win the Big 12.”

For Frausing Pedersen, who admits that she still misses her friends and family back in Denmark, life has become a little easier. And in only her second year, her future as a Longhorn looks bright.

“She’s certainly going to be one of our better players and a leader here over the next couple of years,” Petrucelli said. “I think we’re just starting to see the beginning of a really talented player.”