Though some of the players on the North Carolina men’s tennis team come from across the Atlantic Ocean, they’ve come to call Chapel Hill their second home.
Danish sophomore Esben Hess-Olesen, Norwegian sophomore Oystein Steiro, and German junior Maik Ulrich have all contributed to the Tar Heels’ success this year on the courts, including a pair of shutouts against UT-Chattanooga and North Carolina Central on Sunday.
They’ve also contributed to the team’s chemistry.
“I don’t even look at them as international players. I just look at them as great kids,” coach Sam Paul said. “They’re part of our family. They work hard. That’s it.”
While Hess-Olesen was out with an injury for the day, Steiro and Ulrich both took the court for the double-header.
The two both recorded wins in their respective doubles matches, as well as singles victories against UT-Chattanooga and shutouts against NC Central opponents.
Steiro, ranked No. 1 in Norway in his age group for several years, won Norwegian championships in 2008, among 16-year-olds, and in 2009, among 18-year-olds. Hess-Olesen, too, rose to a national No. 1 ranking for singles and doubles while growing up in Denmark.
Hess-Olesen, who is now UNC’s highest-ranked player, talked about how his success in Denmark brought him to Chapel Hill.
“First, I was just kind of emailing a lot of schools. I didn’t know much about college tennis actually,” he said. “But then the (UNC) coaches replied, and we got in contact. Eventually, they offered me an official visit. I took it and pretty much fell in love with this place.”