Sophomores Tasha Dembo and Yusra Hegy have led a revitalized U-Mary tennis team this year. For the natives of Zimbabwe and Egypt, respectively, this year actually isn’t the first they’ve played together.
For Dembo and Hegy, theirs is a friendship that began several thousand miles ago in Africa. As teenagers, both of them participated in the International Tennis Federation, which sponsors tournaments all over the world.
“When we weren’t playing for our countries, when we were just playing ITFs, we would be doubles partners,” Dembo said.
The two kept in touch over the years. Dembo was the first to come to America to play at Cowley Community College, but she says it was hard to fit in.
“Some of them had a problem with me going to church, because I went every Thursday night,” Dembo said. “I would go for Bible studies and stuff like that, so I was just the weird one out on the team.”
So she transferred to U-Mary, and she loved it so much that she reached out to Hegy, who was also looking to transfer from her junior college program.
“She told me how she liked it and enjoyed it, and told me I should come and visit,” Hegy explained.
Dembo said her sales pitch to Hegy was simple.
“After college, we’d be professional tennis players, so be doubles partners together, and we can travel in America and play ITFs all we want,” Dembo said.
They say their styles on the court have always matched well.
“The games when I’m aggressive, she’s the one who takes care of us, and vice versa,” Hegy said. “When she’s so aggressive, I’m kind of in the back, like, ‘I’m ready if the ball comes back!'”
They take care of each other off the court, as well.
“We’re both from foreign countries,” Hegy said, “so we both understand each other when it comes to missing home, missing your language.”
When home is thousands of miles away, having a best friend at your side makes all the difference.
“It’s really nice to have a best friend doing the same thing as you are,” Hegy said.