Elizabeth Fuchs had an atypical experience as a student-athlete at Southern Virginia University. The Los Altos native took two years off from school and the tennis team to go on a mission for her church, and then her senior season was cut short due to the global pandemic.
Fuchs, a 2014 graduate of Los Altos High, began playing tennis at age 4 or 5 with her dad.
“Growing up, it was really fun to have something that my brothers and my parents and I could all do together, and something that we had fun doing together,” Fuchs said.
After playing tennis in high school, Fuchs chose to continue her athletic career at SVU, where she said her teammates and coaches became family.
“Tennis is very individual, so sometimes when it’s just yourself out there, it’s not as fun,” Fuchs said. “When you’re competing with a team – I really enjoyed that.”
In 2015, after her freshman year, Fuchs moved to Minnesota for a year and a half on her mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, teaching others about her religion.
“I got to leave all of my problems, all the things that I worried about with sports or with school and with family and friends, at home,” she said. “I think I became a better person, because I believe when we’re serving others, we’re the happiest because we’re not focusing on our problems.”
In the year and a half she was away from SVU on her mission, Fuchs said she became more confident in herself and learned how to better work and talk with different people. One of her favorite memories, she said, was getting to meet a group of African refugees in the Twin Cities and learning about the sacrifices and struggles they made to get to the U.S.
Fuchs added that she enjoyed making connections with the people she interacted with.
“It was just cool learning about everyone’s culture that we met, learning about everyone’s beliefs, and being able to share something that’s so personal with each other and build a relationship and bond off of that,” she said.
When she returned to SVU in 2017, Fuchs found it difficult to transition back into school – especially playing tennis again.
“I wasn’t playing tennis for a year and a half,” the team captain said. “It took a little bit to get back into the swing of things and get back to what I was used to.”
Tom Snelson, Fuchs’ coach at SVU her senior year, said the players who take an extended break often need six to nine months to return to the skill level they were at before doing so.
“The hardest part is dealing with the mental aspect of not being able to be as consistent as you were in the past,” said Snelson, who also coaches the men’s team at SVU.
Fuchs not only worked hard to return to form, the coach added, but she also emerged as a leader by “helping the new players adjust” and “having a positive attitude.”
After missing the majority of her junior season due to ankle and wrist surgeries, Fuchs said she was excited to play for her final year. She and the team did get to play a short fall season, but the spring campaign ended soon after it began due to the
While disappointed that she couldn’t finish what she started, Fuchs said she will miss the relationships with her teammates and the memories they made together the most.
“When I started at SVU, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to play all four years, but I think it was really the people that kept me there,” she said. “During practice, we always had music playing, so it was fun to be singing or dancing between points or drills.”
Fuchs finished her college career with records of 17-25 in singles and 34-24 in doubles matches.
She graduated virtually in May with a degree in family and human development and plans to attend Boston University in the fall with the goal of earning a master’s degree in speech-language pathology. Fuchs said her time on her mission inspired her career path.
“I really wanted to work with people,” she said. “I wanted to learn more about what made people tick and be able to help them.”