With finals just two weeks out, Washington State University student Savanna Ly-Nguyen left Pullman for a 10-day, 1,500-plus mile trip that would start with a stop in Seattle and end in San Diego, California.
Inconvenient travel is part of life for a student-athlete.
And it doesn’t faze Ly-Nguyen, a standout member of the Cougar tennis team and a junior in the Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience department.
“School and tennis are my top priorities,” Ly-Nguyen, of Canada, said. “There isn’t too much time to do other stuff, but I enjoy putting in the work and seeing the results.”
Ly-Nguyen’s final trip of the spring semester ended with a loss at the Pac-12 Championships in San Diego, and while it wasn’t the championship ending she had hoped for, it didn’t take away from the year’s accomplishments. During the 2020-21 season, Ly-Nguyen had a team-best 18-6 overall record and a 7-3 mark in Pac-12 play.
This spring, she also was also selected as a 2021 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar by the Diverse: Issues in Higher Education magazine. The honor recognizes outstanding young minority student-athletes who have distinguished themselves in their academic and athletic pursuits. Students must maintain a grade point average of at least 3.5 and be active on their campuses or in their communities.
“I am really proud of getting this award. It is only given to 10 female student-athletes in the country,” Ly-Nguyen said.
As a neuroscience major, Ly-Nguyen – who speaks English, French and Vietnamese – has a 3.95 GPA and hopes to go to pharmacy school in Canada when she graduates. She also volunteers multiple times a year with her teammates to help with free tennis clinics in the community, and pre-COVID, she was an active volunteer at Circles of Caring Adult Day Services, a program that provides a safe, caring and nurturing atmosphere for adults and older populations.
Ly-Nguyen, whose parents were born in Vietnam but immigrated to Canada, grew up near Toronto and was introduced to tennis by her uncle when she was just 5 years old.
“After starting to play, I really grew to love the sport,” she said.
Tennis has opened many doors for Ly-Nguyen. Not only did it help land her a scholarship at WSU, but it also has allowed her to represent Vietnam on the court as a member of its national tennis team. In December of 2019, she became the first Vietnamese female to earn a silver medal in tennis at the Southeast Asian Games, a biennial multi-sport event involving 11 countries from Southeast Asia.
“I am really proud to be able to represent Vietnam, and I know my parents are proud too,” she said.