Communications Student Assistant
Once separated by over 7,000 miles, LSU’s standout freshmen Jade Lewis and Becca Weissmann are now separated by just a few feet on the doubles court and, when they’re off the court, they’re nearly inseparable.
Lewis, who was born in Germany but spent most of her youth living in New Zealand before moving to the United States at the age of 11, has played in tournaments across the world, everywhere from the Netherlands to Brazil and from Canada to Mexico.
Weissmann, who was born and raised in Loveland, Colo., took the more traditional high school route, working her way to being ranked the No. 1 recruit in the state and one of the top blue-chip recruits in the country.
Tennis played a substantial role in the families of both freshmen, especially Lewis, who comes from a storied tennis family; her uncle Chris became a sports hero in New Zealand by advancing to the finals of Wimbledon in 1983 against John McEnroe and her father was a highly-ranked player in both singles and doubles.
Weissmann’s family has always had a love for tennis, although they excelled at several other sports. Weissmann’s father played college football and ran track and her six siblings have played a wide range of sports, varying from college football to college volleyball.
“They’ve always loved watching tennis and our first house had a tennis court so they played for fun,” Weissmann said. “All my siblings at one time or another picked up a racket, so that’s kind of how I started.”
Despite their different upbringings and backgrounds, tennis brought the two girls together from opposite corners of the world and the chance to play at LSU brought them closer than ever.
For LSU women’s tennis co-head coach Julia Sell, the opportunity to bring the duo down to Baton Rouge was one she could not pass up.
“I had watched both of them for many years” Sell said. “I had seen Becca probably three or four years ago when she was a freshman in high school and the first thing I noticed about her was how much of an incredible competitor she was. I first started seeing Jade her sophomore year and was just really impressed with her speed and how she competed.”
Lewis and Weissmann comprised LSU’s first-ever No. 1 recruiting class in the nation for women’s tennis, and the brand new tennis facility as well as the winning culture Sell and her husband, co-head coach Michael Sell, had established at the university had a lot to do with it.
“I was talking to other schools, but I didn’t visit any,” Lewis said. “I only visited LSU after I signed. I definitely loved the coaches and the brand-new facility and the feeling that everything was up-and-coming.”
The revitalized energy and winning mentality cultivated by the Sells was a key factor in their pitch to the incoming freshmen, who had already seen the Tigers’ existing team experience success at LSU.
“When I came to LSU I just fell in love with the coaches and the atmosphere that was surrounding it,” Weissmann said. “I love the campus and I love the girls on the team, so I just felt it was a really good fit for me.”
Weissmann was the first to arrive at LSU, enrolling in the fall semester of 2016 which gave her the opportunity to adjust to collegiate tennis by competing in the fall tournament season.
The Colorado native experienced immediate success at her first fall tournament, the James Bonk Classic in Cary, N.C. Weissmann collected huge wins over Duke’s Rebecca Smaller and Virginia’s Camille Favero and took down the No. 39 pairing of Meible Chi and Ellyse Hamlin of Duke in doubles with partner Skylar Holloway.
Unfortunately, an injury kept Weissmann out of the ITA Southern Regional and the LSU Fall Classic later that fall, but the freshman returned in the spring healthy and more determined than ever to continue her early success.
When Lewis officially joined LSU in the spring semester of 2017, Weissmann not only gained a teammate, but a roommate as well.
“I always knew she was going to be coming, but in the fall I was the only freshman,” Weissmann said. “That was kind of an adjustment having to go through that by myself, but once she came in, it was nice to have another freshman and we’ve grown super close.”
Going from almost complete strangers to tight-knit friends and teammates was a seamless transition for Lewis and Weissmann, only made easier by the fact that they see each other every single day.
The bond that the two girls have come to experience is evident both on and off the court, some times more evident than others.
“My favorite thing about Becca being my roommate is walking out of my room and seeing her wearing the exact same clothes as me,” Lewis said. “It’s almost every day.”
“We literally have twinning moments all the time,” Weissmann added.
It’s that kind of unspoken connection that has translated so strongly to the tennis courts, where Lewis and Weissmann were a perfect match for one another as doubles partners.
“We kind of just threw them together in practice because they knew each other and were living together, so we were just kind of like, ‘let’s see what happens,’” Sell said. “They clicked immediately and we kind of moved them around a little bit, but we came right back to that pairing because the personalities fit. They know each other so well at this point and that really helps them communicate better in doubles.”
The girls’ friendship certainly creates positive interactions in doubles play, but they aren’t afraid to push one another to be better.
“We’re really open with each other and we hold each other accountable,” Weissmann said. “I always ask her for her honest opinion and she gives it to me straight.”
“I can tell her anything,” Lewis added. “I can tell her to stop doing something, or to do something better and she does the same for me. I wouldn’t want to be lied to.”
In addition to their advanced play and strong connection, Sell has been impressed with their relentless work ethic.
“I’ve seen those two out at 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning to keep working,” Sell said. “That’s a leadership quality you hope your upperclassmen have, and those are my two freshmen that are doing that without us even suggesting it to them. They’re like that with their studies too; they just take care of all the little details.”
Lewis and Weissmann began the season a combined 10-0 in singles and 6-0 as a doubles pairing and, at one point, the duo was the only undefeated freshman pairing in the SEC. When the first updated ITA rankings came out Feb. 3, Lewis was listed as the No. 35 player in the country.
Their stellar play propelled the Tigers to a 7-1 start, including an undefeated 6-0 home record at the tennis complex that was so instrumental in getting them to come to LSU in the first place.
With an SEC schedule considerably more difficult than the Tigers’ nonconference schedule this season, Lewis and Weissmann have had to rely on one another more than ever amid the challenges of playing in the toughest conference in college tennis.
Although the two freshmen are still adjusting to the rigors of SEC play, the Tigers have already seen huge results from each of them already.
Lewis’s very first SEC win came against a ranked opponent in South Carolina’s Mia Horvit, earning Lewis her fourth win against a ranked player so far this season. Weissmann recently turned in the best performance of her young career against Missouri, clinching a thrilling 4-3 win for LSU after overcoming a first-set deficit and showing relentless heart in an exhilarating three-set, come-from-behind triumph over Amina Ismail.
The Tigers have a daunting road ahead as they continue their conference schedule, and they will need their two outstanding freshmen to continue to play at the top of their game.
LSU’s unique combination of experienced veterans and promising newcomers has the team prepped for a deep run this year, but one thing is for sure: the future is bright for the LSU women’s tennis program.
Lewis and Weissmann are only going to improve even further as the season progresses, and the bond they share will only grow stronger. These girls are going to keep showing up match after match—most likely wearing the same outfit—and give everything they have for years to come.