Pieters Giving His All To The Very End
May 21, 2014
By Melanie Watson, Grady Sports Media
ATHENS, Ga. --- Whenever University of Georgia senior tennis player Hernus Pieters has something to drink, he continuously goes back for another sip even when the container is seemingly empty. He goes for every last drop until there's absolutely nothing left.
In his home country of South Africa there are no free refills. Everyone makes the most out of what they are given. Pieters was given the talent of being good at tennis and he started making the most of it the moment he arrived at UGA in 2010.
"In the beginning I was just wondering if I was actually going to survive here in a foreign country," Pieters says. "In terms of the way my career here panned out, I think it caught me by surprise as well. It all just kind of happened. It was definitely unexpected."
Pieters will begin competing, along with teammate Ben Wagland, for the 2014 NCAA doubles championship on Thursday. This will be his last chance to compete in a Georgia uniform. It will also be a moment of reflection for him as he recalls how he felt when he first arrived at Georgia.
Four years later, he can laugh and say that he adjusted quite well. The realization that his career was coming to a close didn't fully sink in until after No. 7 North Carolina defeated No. 10 Georgia in the NCAA team championships last week.
Over the course of his time here, Pieters has helped his team to the NCAA tennis “Final Four” twice. Off the court, he's consistently made academic honor roll and the dean's list. He's had a successful journey here, but it was not without experiencing hardship as well.
"The most difficult point of my career here was definitely losing my mom just two months into my time at UGA," says Pieters.
Pieter's mother, Laetitia, passed away from pancreatic cancer during his first semester of college. He went back to South Africa to be with his family and prepare for the funeral. Afterward, he headed back to the United States to re-join his team and continue his studies.
Three years later, Pieters readily gives credit to his teammates and coaches for helping him through such a trying time. As he looks back over his entire four years in Athens, he values those supportive relationships he's formed more than anything else.
"Being part of a program that has such greatness about it has such a huge impact on your life," he says. "Relationships with the right people can change your expectations and increase your ambitions. That's the most valuable thing I think I will carry away from here."
Pieters will remain at Georgia for another year to complete his dual degrees in banking and finance, and risk management and insurance. He's happy that his time will last a little longer but he knows that it won't be quite the same due to the fact that he won't be competing for the team any longer.
He's currently looking at the bottom of the cup that represents his Georgia tennis career. Although it's seemingly empty, he continues to go back for more until there's absolutely nothing left.
"I feel like I pretty much gave all that I could give,” he says, “which hopefully was enough."
Watson is a student in Grady Sports Media, a program at UGA's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.