Oct. 6, 2010
The University of New Mexico men's tennis team is looking to move on from last year's 8-12 team performance, the first time in 10 years the team posted a losing record. A big part of moving on and looking toward a substantially more successful 2010-2011 season are freshmen brothers Mads Hegelund and Simon Hegelund.
"They call us `the Lobros' here," said Simon, 19, the younger of the two. While both brothers are entering UNM as freshmen, Mads is almost two years older than Simon. The `Lobros' are originally from Virum, Denmark, but moved to Denver, Colo. in 2008. Both graduated from George Washington High School, Mads in 2009 and Simon last May. Tennis has been the focus of the Hegelunds for a majority of their lives, but for Mads, it took some trial and error to find his sport.
"Like many young European boys, I started out playing soccer," he said. "I just didn't have the feel for it. It just wasn't my thing."
Around the time Mads was 8, the Hegelund's father decided to pick up tennis again, having played when he was younger. Mads decided to tag along.
"I went with him and started hitting against the wall," he said. "I would go there pretty much every evening and hit against the wall for about an hour, or maybe two hours. I just got caught up with the individual aspect of tennis compared to soccer."
About a year and a half later, Simon became interested in the sport. He distinctly remembers the moment he became "inspired."
"I actually watched Mads play against my dad," Simon said. "I was sitting in the umpire chair watching them play."
Tennis was their passion and focus as they grew up. In Denmark, Mads was consistently ranked in the top 15 of the nation all the years he participated in juniors tennis. At the Boys 12 level, he defeated two top 5 players to win one of the summer's biggest national tournaments in Denmark. In his last Boys 18 national championship, he won a bronze medal in doubles.
Simon was also a ranked player in juniors tennis. He consistently sat among the top 25, and finished in the top 20 in Boys 18.
Once in the United States, the brothers made an immediate impact on their high school's tennis program. The Hegelunds led the George Washington High School Danes to a third-place finish in the 2008 Colorado High School Activities Association state tournament. As individuals, Mads placed third in No. 1 singles and Simon placed second in No. 2 singles.
Last spring the pair made UNM head coach Alan Dils happy when they decided to become Lobos. The brothers say they knew immediately UNM was the best fit for them. "From the first time we talked to Bart Scott and Alan and met with the people, this just felt like it was the place we wanted to go," Mads said. "We felt really welcome here. It felt really appealing to us, the whole program and all the people around it."
"We saw it as a chance we couldn't miss," Simon added.
Now, almost a month into the fall season, Dils can tell the Hegelunds are a great match with the program.
"They really fit our mold," Dils said. "They learn quickly, they listen, they're very respectful and they work hard. I certainly expect Simon and Mads to do a great job over the course of four or five years."
The brothers are enjoying Lobo tennis so far, finding it a refreshing step up from high school tennis. They've especially appreciated the team unity.
"The team in general is amazing, the chemistry...it's almost like a family," Simon said. "There's always someone to push you and help you."
Three fall inivitationals into their college careers, the young "Lobros" are finding some success and becoming more familiar with a higher level of tennis.
Mads has three wins in singles matches, two of which were captured at the University of Denver Fall Invitational Sept. 24-26. He also has two wins in doubles. Simon has a win in doubles and a win in singles.
"It's tougher because there's more pressure involved, there's more competition, there's more thinking," Mads said of collegiate level tennis. "You really have you think your way out of some of the matches to get through and win them. It's a higher level."
Dils, too, recognizes that there will be an adjustment and like any other first-year players, they will have to "get their feet wet."
The hardworking "Lobros" are up for the challenge and are looking to add to the team as needed.
"Any way we can contribute we'd love to," Simon said. "We're still trying to find our role on the team. Right now we're just all about supporting and trying to find where we fit in."
Outside of tennis, the brothers are enjoying the college experience. They like the city of Albuquerque--especially the wide variety of dining options, and appreciate the laid back, and down to earth atmosphere.
"Even though we have much more to do and more responsibility we enjoy it more," Simon said. "It's a really good college city. It's not too big, it's not too small, and there's a lot of other stuff around besides the college."
"We love how people outside the school have the spirit for the Lobos," Mads added.