With two parents who attended BYU, it came as a surprise to her whole family when tennis player, Leah Heimuli decided to transfer from BYU-Hawaii to the University of Utah. A native of Highland, Utah, Heimuli attended a school that is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saint for her freshman year of college, and she had an enjoyable time there.
Due to dramatic budget cuts, the 2017 season was the final year for all athletic programs at BYU-Hawaii, so Heimuli was forced to choose between continuing her education in Hawaii, or finding another college where she could also play tennis.
Heimuli said that she decided against following the family tradition of continuing to attend a BYU school, because she believed that university didn’t have the high level of competition she was looking for.
“In order to get better and play good teams and players, the U was a better option,” Heimuli said.
Returning to Utah was positive for her in a lot of ways. She said she is a self-proclaimed homebody, so the transition was rather smooth. Not only that, but she now gets to see her five younger siblings more often and spend more time with them.
Both of Heimuli’s parents got on board with her desire to be a student-athlete at Utah. Now that she is, they want to support her at her new school with her new team. Although the change may be harder for her siblings, Heimuli knows they will always support her, even though may not want to be seen wearing the color red.
Head coach Mat Iandolo, who was familiar with the local player while she was still in high school, was confident adding Heimuli to the roster.
“I knew that she would be better than what her rating would indicate,” Iandolo said. “I have never been more confident in a player because I have been able to watch her develop.”
Heimuli has been playing tennis for more than half of her life, and the opportunity to be playing with teammates she played with prior to reaching the collegiate level has her thrilled to be a Ute. Her doubles partner, Whitney Turley, who is also a sophomore, was on one of her teams before she left for Hawaii.
Moving from the Pacific West Conference into the Pac-12 will be an adjustment for Heimuli, but she is confident in her skills and ability to compete at a higher level. Heimuli is looking forward to the challenge that competing in this conference will bring her, and she is prepared to work as hard as she can to achieve her goals throughout the season.
“Having the Pac -12 name attached to your school puts pressure on all the athletes to perform at a higher level,” Heimuli said. “But it can be good pressure to work harder.”
Thanks to her father who coached her since she was young, Heimuli began to train with him upon returning to Salt Lake City in order to become acclimated to playing in the Utah altitude and weather. She has also been adjusting to the different team climate and styles of the Utah coaching staff. While the coaches have been working with her, helping to get her integrated into the program, Iandolo has already seen her make improvements. Although he described Heimuli as a quiet and confident leader, he said she has the potential to become an even bigger asset to the team in the future.
“As she gets more and more comfortable with the level of competition on a daily basis, she will have the tools to adapt and flourish,” Iandolo said.