Franziska “Sissi” Koehler (’16) and Travis Johnsen (’13)


Construction of a $7 million indoor tennis-golf center will transform Gonzaga’s men’s and women’s golf and tennis varsity programs. With six tennis courts and an indoor golf practice facility, the center will undergo construction this spring. Its site, the Legacy Field, is south of Spokane’s Mission Park and west of the Spokane River.

“The entire estimated project cost has been committed by generous donors,” said Chris Standiford, senior associate athletic director. Fundraising continues on an endowment to cover the facility’s operation costs. The center should open in time for the 2014 spring season. All four coaches sound ecstatic at the prospect.

“With this facility, we will be able to apply to host national events,” said men’s tennis Coach Peter MacDonald. “Teams from Stanford and UW will be able to come here to compete. It will be a big selling point for recruits.”

“The new indoor center will allow student athletes to practice 365 days a year.” – Chris Standiford

“It is indescribable how much it will change our program,” said women’s tennis Coach D.J. Gurule. “It will positively affect everything we do.”

“Five years ago,” said Coach Brad Rickel, “women’s golf at Gonzaga ranked about 200th in the country. We are now ranked about 50th. So we’ve built it forward. As you can tell on a day like today” – mid-February snow was bucketing down – “this center will be awfully nice.”

Robert Gray, men’s golf coach, said, “To practice putting and chipping during the winter months and to better simulate outdoor golf will be fantastic. Showing recruits they can work on all facets of their game – and have a place to call home – brings us closer to a level playing field.

With our championship season in the spring, it’s important to be as prepared as possible coming out of the winter.”

“The new indoor center will allow our student athletes to practice 365 days a year,” Standiford said. “And the greatest win for our students? They will be able to practice according to their academic schedules.” Webcams on each tennis court will allow parents to watch their student play live matches. The center also will offer state-of-the-art golf simulators, locker rooms and offices, as well as balcony seating overlooking the tennis courts.

Franziska “Sissi” Koehler (’16), psychology

The story: In Koehler’s native Germany, there are no college sports. So when it comes time for university, serious athletes have to make a decision: Stay close to home and try to find a club team, or travel halfway around the world to pursue their passion while getting an education? Koehler, didn’t think twice. After meeting D.J. Gurule, head coach of the women’s tennis, she enrolled at Gonzaga sight unseen.

In school: In Germany, university students attend lectures and take tests – there is no homework. So, in her first week, Koehler didn’t do any. “It was very diffi cult for me because I was behind.“ She said “Studying and being an athlete is much harder than I thought.” As her English has improved and she’s settled into life at GU, Koehler feels confident in both roles. “Now I know how it works and I know I can handle it better.” Koehler hopes to teach high school English in Germany.

On the court: Even tennis isn’t the same here as the sport Koehler has played most of her life. For one thing, tennis is played on clay in Germany, allowing players to slide. Having never played on a hardcourt before, Koehler had to put in extra practice just to move quickly on the concrete. The other biggest difference, the importance of doubles play, was a huge factor in Koehler’s decision to play in America. “In Germany, it’s all about singles. It’s a very individual sport – all about you, you, you. I love being on a team, you can push each other.”

With the team: Koehler enjoys the strong bond shared by her teammates. “Other teams, they do homework while their teammates are playing or they play on their iPhones. We pay attention to our teammates. That makes me really happy to be on this team.”

Travis Johnsen (’13), business

The story: His grandfather was a successful amateur golfer, and Johnsen remembers chipping golf balls into buckets in the backyard as a little kid. When he hit middle school, he took the sport more seriously and realized he might become good enough to play in college. A few years later, Johnsen met a GU player at a summer tournament. As he learned about the school, the tight-knit community and, yes, the basketball team, he knew this was where he wanted to be. Gonzaga was the only school he applied to.

In the classroom: “You miss five Monday/Tuesdays every semester. That’s a ton of classes, and it’s hard to keep track of what you’re missing. This semester I’m focusing more on school, but I’ve defi nitely had to learn to balance the two.” Johnsen puts in 30-plus hours a week of practice and conditioning.

On the course: Johnsen is captain of the six-man team. “I want to set a good example,” he said. “The freshman thinks I don’t like him. Which isn’t true, he’s a great kid. But I’m not going to beat around the bush when it comes to practice. He’ll learn that I’m only trying to make us better.”

In the community: Johnsen has gotten the most out of college by throwing himself into activities. He has type one diabetes; it has never slowed his ability to compete but inspires him to work towards a cure. Last summer, he volunteered with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and he hopes to work for Providence Health Care Systems.

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