From Africa to Nebraska: Tennis Player Making Mark at Westside

Togo, Africa is a small country more than three times smaller than the size of Nebraska. Three years ago, junior Divine Lawson made the life-changing 6,000 mile journey from Togo to the United States. While integrating to a new lifestyle in the United States, tennis has remained a constant for Lawson. This season, Lawson is contributing to the tennis team and helping them work for a spot at state.

Lawson said that she first began playing tennis in Africa when she was just a preschooler.

“I was really young [when I started playing],” Lawson said. “I was like five years old so I didn’t really know what I was doing.”

Over a decade later, head coach Jordane Warkentin said that Lawson is one of the top doubles players for Westside.

“She played #1 doubles in the Westside Invitational [on April 5],” Warkentin said. “She has grown a lot in her doubles play and has bonded well with her doubles partner.”

Warkentin said that Lawson has brought a good combination of competitiveness and friendliness to the team.

“Divine has brought a lot of intensity and goofiness to the program,” Warkentin said. “She is a fierce competitor and strives to get better each day. She has done a great job of forming friendships with her new teammates and has not only made friends with Varsity team members but also JV members.”

While undergoing her transition to Westside tennis, Warkentin said that Lawson, who currently holds a 14-5 record, hasn’t missed a beat.

“She has a lot of great technique and strategy from her prior years of tennis that she brought to our program,” Warkentin said.

Lawson said that she credits lots of her success to the intensity of tennis in Africa and that it is very different there than it is in the United States.

“In Africa, people are really good [at tennis],” Lawson said. “I feel like I was better when I was in Africa just because people over there don’t really do anything else. The coaches are really good and there were academies over there for us.”

Warkentin said that Lawson and the rest of the team were able to bond at the beginning of the season since they had to practice inside due to weather.

“The girls have done a great job of bonding with one another,” Warkentin said. “We had a weird start to the beginning of the season, due to the weather, so it feels like our season is actually starting to take full swing. Not being on the court for the first few weeks gave the girls time to get to know each other and bond before they started competing for the top spots in the program.”

Lawson said that she agrees that her chemistry with the team has grown a lot from the beginning of the season until now.

“At the beginning of the season I didn’t really talk to anyone,” Lawson said. “Now I’ve got to know them more and I know how to talk to them.”

Whether it’s Africa or Nebraska, the sport has always been an important part of Lawson’s life.

“I just love tennis,” Lawson said.