Sullivan finds home at UNI

DHS senior commits to play NCAA D1 tennis


Wildcat Photo

Senior Issa Sullivan signs her national letter of intent to play college tennis at the University of Northern Iowa at a ceremony with family and friends on Dec. 6, 2019.

Abby Knuth, Staff Reporter

For the first time in USD 232 history, a student will go on to continue their academic and athletic career for tennis at the NCAA Division 1 level. De Soto High School senior Issa Sullivan, has signed a letter of intent with the University of Northern Iowa in the Missouri Valley Conference to play tennis, where she plans to study Biology. 

“It is kind of crazy that there has never been a Division 1 tennis player come from our district, so it is pretty cool to be the first,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan has been around tennis her entire life. Her dad, DHS journalism teacher Michael Sullivan, started coaching for the DHS tennis team the year she was born.

“Since my dad was once the head coach for De Soto High School, I have always been around tennis. I started going to practices when I was 8, tournaments when I was 10, and I started taking it seriously when I was 12,” Issa said.

When setting major goals for the future, having a strong support system was necessary for Issa to achieve them.

“My parents and coaches have been with me the whole time. My dad has been my biggest supporter. He is the one who got me involved in tennis. He takes me to all of my tournaments and is at all of my matches,” Issa said. “He has always been my No. 1 fan, and he has gotten me through the recruitment process.”

Issa has followed in her father’s footsteps when playing tennis and has made him very proud.

“It is one of those things where your parents are going to be your biggest fans, but the fact that she fell in love with something that I grew up loving, it probably means even more [that she feels I have been her biggest supporter],” Michael said.

Finding the perfect fit is important when looking for a place to continue one’s educational career, and Issa made sure to carefully consider each factor of her choice.

“I chose Northern Iowa because it is the perfect size campus for me. There are 10,000 students, which means it isn’t too big but not incredibly small. The girls on the [tennis] team were all so nice, and the coaches were really supportive,” Issa said. “I felt like they really wanted me to come there to play for them.”

Michael has been very involved in helping Issa reach her ultimate goal.

“I am really excited for her. She has had this goal to play Division 1 tennis. [There were] a couple of other opportunities as well, but this one just kind of felt right,” Michael said.. “She has worked really hard to get to this point, and I think she is really happy with her decision.” 

Senior Leighton Rock, who has been one of Issa’s best friends for many years, has witnessed Issa’s strong work ethic first-hand.

“She has worked really hard and put in a lot of effort. She has missed a lot of things because she is always practicing, always at tournaments and is very dedicated,” Rock said.

As most student athletes have experienced, sports can challenge their players mentally, physically and emotionally due to everything required to be successful.

“Playing tennis has definitely made her more determined about things, and it has made her not give up because she has gone through some injuries,” Rock said. “She always overcame everything and just knew what she wanted and went for it.”

Because of her achievements, Issa has made her family and friends very proud of her and everything she has accomplished through her hard work.

“I would say we [mom and dad] are incredibly proud. I don’t even know if I can describe how proud I am,” Michael said.

Everything Issa has accomplished started with her goals, which have constantly inspired her to keep going.

“Especially these last couple years when the recruiting process was getting tough, my goals have been what inspired me,” Issa said. “I have always wanted to play Division 1 tennis, so that has been what has pushed me to work hard and get better.”