From courts to fields, female athletes have made waves in golf, tennis, track and softball. Competing this spring semester, five women stand out as athletic inspirations at UTD: graduate golfer Karen Lee, junior tennis player Rebecca Jackson, sophomore runner Sage Herrera and softball players Emilie Hoelscher and Megan Todd.
Business analytics graduate student Karen Lee is undoubtedly a force on the golf field, winning her second competition of the year at the Lidlifter Tournament, where she earned the second-best score in UTD history. In her first season with the Comets, she has been named the 24th best Division III player in the nation and helped to bring UTD to the top 10 national rankings in women’s golf last semester. Lee earned her second Golfer of the Week this semester.
“I view golf as so much more mental than a physical sport,” Lee said. “Even when I had the talent and sometimes couldn’t put the scores together, I knew it was because of my mindset … I tell myself now that I am the player that I am for a reason, and I deserve to finish stronger.”
Lee played golf at a DII university with longer courses and more game days before transferring to UTD. She said UTD’s team has helped to support her and credits the team’s national rank to their discipline.
“I have a great coach and a great team,” Lee said. “We have a very small team, but we’ve been able to really compete and progress well. We have a very relaxed environment, but we all push each other to be better players every day.”
Neuroscience junior Rebecca Jackson recently made headlines as the ASC East Division Women’s Tennis Player of the Week, the fourth weekly award in her career. For the last two years, she has been key to UTD’s longest undefeated ASC tournament champion title as well as the team’s No. 6 ranking in region VIII. Since the start of the season, Jackson has won flawlessly seven times between both singles and doubles while maintaining more than double her opponents’ scores in 13 separate matches.
“It feels great to be appreciated, but it’s hard to compare because in college most of the work we do is through the team,” Jackson said, “I do think that there’s some pressure, but I think again, just the fact that it’s such a team aspect in college helps a ton. Knowing that all my teammates are there supporting one another … definitely takes a lot of the pressure off. And knowing that our coaches support us so much and believe that we can do it also [takes off] a lot.”
Jackson said that it is a challenge balancing practice, work and school with the team’s intense schedule, but the sacrifice is worth it.
“I think mainly just understanding the amount of time and effort it takes to be on the team is appreciated,” Jackson said. “We have practice five days a week and on the weekends we’re playing matches … It’s a lot of work but we’re all proud to be here.”
AHT sophomore Sage Herrera turned heads this season in track and field, where she shattered two program records in the 800 meter and 1,500 meter dash during her first run this season. She has since broke UTD’s 1,500 meter record a second time. Herrera has been running for much of her life – since middle school – and this isn’t the first time she’s broken school records.
“I’ve never been super aggressive or coordinated, so any sport that required a ball, I was horrible at,” Herrera said. “With running, you just stay in your lane and finish. It’s not easy but it doesn’t require that other stuff … It’s really cool now to hold two school records. I know they’ll be broken sometime soon in the future, either by me or by future Comets because our track program is so new.”
Despite an injury, plantar fasciitis, Herrera said she is training frequently to maintain top shape so she can compete in future meets. Herrera believes that the program, which only first competed as an official ASC sport in 2021, is still growing and needs student support.
“Just getting that message out that we’re here,” Herrera said. “It’s kind of hard to support us because all our meets are three to six hours away, but just knowing and having some encouragement throughout the day like, ‘hey, good job’ would be pretty nice.”
Emilie Hoelscher and Megan Todd
On the mound and pitch, finance senior Emilie Hoelscher and finance senior Megan Todd are collecting honors for smashing softball performances and some of the best strikeouts in the league. Both senior leaders dominated in their last four games against the Ozarks, in three of which the Ozarks did not score a single point.
“It was the couple weeks of practice that we had before those games,” Hoelscher said. “I was really critiquing my mechanics and working on certain things I knew I was having trouble with that would maybe be weaknesses during the game.”
Hoelscher has been on the team for two years, while Todd has played for four years. As seniors, both Todd and Hoelscher hold some responsibility for leading their team. They attribute good plays to adequate practice and passion for the game.
“I’ve loved every minute of playing UTD softball,” Todd said. “I love the relationships that I’ve built with these girls, and that’s kind of what kept me playing on the team for so long … Learning to re-fall in love in the sport because playing for so long, you sort of lose that interest. Playing DIII, you definitely have to love it, because we don’t have scholarships. I’ve had a great four years, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”