Leon to Elon: Reding sisters find home with women’s tennis

Raised in Mexico, Lizette and Mariana Reding have found a home at Elon as students and members of the women's tennis team.

Having one Division I athlete in a family is impressive. Having two is even more remarkable. Having both on the same team at the same school is a dream that has come true for the Reding family, as sisters Lizette and Mariana have both found a home with the Elon University women’s tennis team.

Born and raised in Leon, Mexico, the Reding sisters grew up on the international tennis circuit, with college tennis far from their minds. Both sisters grew up traveling around the world playing tennis while attending an online school, with education a priority second to their tennis careers.

It wasn’t until Tim Wilkinson, a mutual friend of Elon women’s tennis head coach Elizabeth Anderson, told Anderson about Lizette (the older of the sisters) as a possible fit at Elon that the Redings considered college tennis as an option.

“He called me about Lizette and he said he thought she would be a really nice fit at Elon,” Anderson said. “Everything just went so perfectly and she was just an immediate great fit.”

The Reding sisters on the court for Elon.

Lizette, who played on the International Tennis Federation (ITF) circuit prior to Elon, never planned on attending college in the United States until Wilkinson reached out to her.

“I didn’t know much about college back in Mexico, so that was not a part of my plans for my future,” Lizette said. “But then [Wilkinson] reached out to me. He was like, ‘Hey, I saw you have a really good ranking, you could try to potentially get into college and play for a team.'”

After working with Wilkinson on creating a website and a recruiting profile for her, they started reaching out to colleges in America, and ended up getting in touch with Anderson.

Anderson said that Lizette fell in love with the school and the team right away after her visit.

“She came and visited actually right before the COVID shutdown,” Anderson said. “We were fortunate to get that visit in.”

Two years later, the recruiting process for another player with the last name Reding started all over again for Anderson, only this time, it was for Lizette’s younger sister, Mariana.

“Mariana had expressed a lot of interest in Elon,” Anderson said. “I know that she looked at a lot of other schools too and was very highly recruited as well. I think she liked the opportunity to play with her sister.”

Lizette found the transition to school from online school in Mexico to in-person learning at Elon was difficult at first, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I freaked out,” Lizette said. “I was like, oh my god, what am I going to do with in-class exams or with the language… I had the grammar and the writing part and all of that, but then speaking is really hard, and then listening to English all day long, it was exhausting those first two months.”

This year, Lizette, a senior co-captain on the team, has helped Mariana, a first-year student, adjust to college life in the U.S. drawing from her own experience.

“It was easier for me because she was already here,” Mariana said. “I already knew how college works. [Lizette] really had no idea when she first got in. She actually helped me a lot, and I’m very grateful for that.”

Lizette Reding, right, and Mariana Reding, center, have been competitive tennis players since they were young.

In addition to helping her with the recruitment process, Lizette helped Mariana by giving her advice on what she needed at Elon and how to get from place to place off the court.

“My first day, I was going to the mailroom without anything and I’ll be like, yeah, I’m just Mariana,” Mariana said. “And she’s like, ‘No, you need your Phoenix card!’ She actually told me how to do it.”

On the court, however, that sisterly love is put to the side momentarily during practices. The Redings are extremely competitive against one another.

“Sometimes I chuckle when I see them play against each other because you see a little sister rivalry come out,” Anderson said. “But that’s kind of fun to see as well. It’s always in good fun and good competition.”

When talking about how they push each other on and off the court, the sisters looked at each other and laughed while talking about their competitiveness.

“I’m a really competitive person, and when it comes to my sister, it’s even more competitive,” Lizette said. “We push ourselves really, really hard, but it’s also very fun to have my sister on the team.”

Mariana shared the same sentiment as Lizette and traces their competitive spirit to when they were kids. It’s a sense of competition that is not limited to tennis.

“We were very competitive since we were little,” Mariana said. “We also have a younger brother and we were all very competitive between us. Whether we’re playing video games or absolutely everything we do, we compete. I think having my sister here actually pushes me.”

Off the court, the sisters take their academics very seriously and are grateful to have the chance to attend college in the U.S. Combined with their strong work ethic on the court, Anderson says they have been an incredible fit with the women’s tennis team at Elon.

“They really embody what we want to be as a team. They uphold our team values very well. They work hard, they give 100% every day and they’re very dedicated to the team.” Anderson said. “I don’t think I’ve seen a day that I’ve come to practice that Mariana hasn’t been smiling, and Lizette is the same way. Lizette is extremely genuine and is always setting such a great example.”

Lizette, Mariana and Anderson all credit the Redings’ parents for helping them reach this level.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with their parents,” Anderson said. “They’ve always been extremely supportive of our team and I’m so grateful for that. It’s exciting to be able to work with them for a long period of time now that we have Mariana too.”

Lizette and Mariana are both grateful for how much their parents sacrificed for them and mentioned how much their support means.

“My parents are the most supportive people for us,” Lizette said. “I remember when I started to play this sport when I was nine, I talked to my dad and I was like, I really want to do this. I really want to be good at tennis, and be the best in Mexico, and then try to be the best in the world. And he didn’t blink twice. My dad took me to all the cities in Mexico and then he took us away from Mexico to play in the US, Central America, South America and Europe, and that was just because my parents were so supportive.”

The Redings’ father used to work with their mother, but quit his job so he could be with Lizette and Mariana and their brother Juan full-time. As a result, he was always at the courts with both sisters and traveled to all their tennis tournaments with them.

“He made a lot of sacrifices to get us here,” Mariana said. “He was with us trying to see what he could do to improve our tennis. I love my parents.”

Now, as the sisters look ahead to the spring, which will be Lizette’s last season at Elon and Mariana’s first, they are thrilled to be able to play on the same team.

“It’s just super nice to have someone looking at you on the court while you’re playing, and this person knows where you’re coming from and knows all your process,” Lizette said. “She [Mariana] has seen me through my highest and lowest, which I feel like it’s crucial to understand what’s going on with me on the court.”

“She keeps me up all the time and makes me want to play better,” Lizette said. “I’m just so happy for [Mariana] to be here, it’s super nice to have [Mariana] here.”

‘Rising Phoenix’ is a new student-led initiative to cover Elon Athletics. Through innovative content creation and storytelling, Elon University students will have the opportunity to highlight the moments, people and events that make an impact, leveraging the athletic department’s various web and social media platforms for distribution. Follow Rising Phoenix on Twitter and Instagram. Interested in joining this initiative as a content creator (video, graphics, writing, storytelling, or more)? Contact Jacob Kisamore at jkisamore@elon.edu.