Updated: Sep 24, 2018
The University of Texas in Austin is slowly becoming a favorite of Eritrean-Americans who are competing at top levels of Athletics. Just last spring Rafiti Ghirmai signed a scholarship to play American football as an offensive lineman for the Longhorns. Meanwhile, this year Siem Woldeab has decided to attend the Texas University after making a tough decision. Who is Siem? find out more....
“Embrace the Clay” might have been a good motto for Siem (pronounced Sam) Woldeab, this past summer playing in his first USTA Clay Court Nationals in Delray Beach, Fla. The 17-year-old from La Mesa immediately took a liking to the greenish
Har-Tur surface making the transition from the familiar hard-court surface he favors like so many top juniors growing up in Southern California. Woldeab finished third at the Clay Courts, losing to eventual champion and University of Notre Dame-bound Axel Nefve in the semifinals, 6-2, 7-6.
“It was tough at first,” admitted Woldeab, whose parents came to the United States from Eritrea (East Africa), of playing on the clay. “I liked it because everything was slower and the matches were longer. You had to time to figure out and change things if you needed to.” The 6-foot-4 Woldeab is a senior-to-be at Helix Charter School in La Mesa who recently turned 17. He started his summer strong by winning the 116th annual SCTA Junior Sectionals at Los Caballeros in Fountain Valley. He beat Omni Kumar in the final, 6-2, 6-4.
“It was pretty cool finally winning my first Sectionals,” the top-seeded Woldeab said. “I played Sectionals in all the age divisions and so to finally win was amazing.”
Woldeab has played his last SCTA junior event, and recently competed at the USTA Hardcourt Nationals in Kalamazoo, Mich. He hopes to play more ITF Juniors and Futures events during his senior year, and is being recruiting by all the major Pac-12 schools.
He said he loves the energy playing in a tennis-mecca like Kalamazoo. “There are so many fans that come out to watch that aren’t even tennis fans,” he said. “They just come out to support the event. It’s really fun to be there.”
Siem thought he wanted to stay in California for college. The San Diego native didn’t want to travel far from home, and had Stanford and UCLA at the top of his list. Woldeab decided to visit Texas last April just to make sure he wasn’t missing out on anything. The trip was marred by flight delays, and the senior blue chip was only able to stay in Austin for less than 24 hours.
“I didn’t get a good look at anything and was not really that impressed with the school that much,” Woldeab said. “I had my application for Stanford all ready to send and I really liked Stanford a lot.” But Texas head coach Michael Center made a home visit last month to convince Woldeab to fly back to Austin one more time. Woldeab and his father spent nearly three days touring the campus and learning more about what Texas had to offer athletically and academically.
Woldeab committed to Texas on the same day he returned home from his visit.
“I just fell in love with the school and fell in love with the city of Austin,” Woldeab said. “It has such a great vibe, and I realized how much I had missed on the first visit. Texas has everything I really wanted out of a school.”
Siem Woldeab, Eritrean-American Tennis, Eritrea Tennis
““It was tough at first,” admitted Woldeab, whose parents came to the United States from Eritrea (East Africa), of playing on the clay. “I liked it because everything was slower and the matches were longer.”
Siem who has two siblings an older brother Senay who played tennis at the high school level and a sister Winta who is doing well and has a potential to be a star. The Eritrean-American tennis family also do very well in their school work as they have proven to be successful on the tennis court.