Rika Matsumoto and Lauren Heino come from two different backgrounds, but they couldn’t be better partners both on and off the court. Just over a year ago, Matsumoto moved here from a small island called Saipan. After a year and a half in a Japanese college, she had decided it was not the place for her. Heino, however, was born at Overlake Hospital and raised in Woodinville.
In first grade, Matsumoto’s mother wanted her to play a sport, and when they heard about an amazing tennis coach, her mother took her to him. For Heino, it wasn’t until sixth grade that she started playing.
As far as tennis goes, there was actually a time when Matsumoto wasn’t sure it was what she wanted to do. “I actually quit in [fifth] grade and played volleyball all the way until senior [year] of high school,” Matsumoto said. “I was also [on] the national volleyball team during my senior year in high school, but [having a] bad coach killed it for me.”
Tennis isn’t the only game for Heino, either. “I play tennis because it is easy to just pick up a racket and get out there,” says Heino. “However, I play basketball and softball for fun too, [but] it is hard to get a big group for a full game.”
The team was brought together by a set of most unusual circumstances: fried chicken. Last year, the Bulldog’s tennis team was at an away match when coach Jason Chapman took the team to Safeway to buy dinner. While the team was buying salads, fruits, and other healthy foods, Matsumoto was buying fried chicken. “
[Chapman] told my partner, Lauren, that we will play bottom doubles because I ate fried chicken before the match,” says Matsumoto. “Lauren was mad at me, and I was mad at Lauren for being mad at me. We did not talk to each other until we got on the court.”
Once they got there however, they shared a hug and apologized to each other, then they played really well together. A friendship and a partnership were born. Now, however, they’re all about this season. Their goals are singular and clear cut. “NWAACC champs … and I want the girls to get closer than we already are,” said Heino.
One thing that can definitely help with that goal is a good coach, which, according to the girls, they have. “I love my coach to death,” says Matsumoto. “He’s like my dad out here just because [I was] out here in the states by myself, and didn’t really have anyone to rely on. He has helped me in every aspect of life besides tennis. He pushes me to study harder, to be nice, honest, and professional.”