Former Iowa women’s tennis player Elise van Heuvelen Treadwell returns to her home court

After playing for the Hawkeyes for all five years of her collegiate career, the five-time All-Big Ten athlete reunited with head coach Sasha Schmid as an assistant.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa’s Elise van Heuvelen Treadwell hits a backhand during a women’s tennis match between Iowa and Rutgers at the HTRC on Friday, April 5, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Scarlet Knights, 6-1.

Matt McGowan, Sports Reporter

Elise van Heuvelen Treadwell didn’t end her collegiate tennis career the way she hoped.

She was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2017 and played for the Hawkeyes during all five years of her career, becoming the first player in conference history to earn five first-team All-Big Ten honors. One accolade was missing: a trip to the NCAA tournament.

“I kind of have a bit of a bad taste in my mouth for that because my last year, you know, we looked like we were projected to get in for the first time in a while,” van Heuvelen Treadwell said. “We watched the selection show, and all of a sudden our name didn’t pop up. It was a complete surprise for everyone. [We were] right on the border …for me, that was my last-ever part of the team.”

After former assistant coach Daniel Leitner left Iowa for Duke on Oct. 7, 2022, the Hawkeyes were left without an assistant coach for almost two months. During this time, head coach Sasha Schmid’s national coaching search led her back to her former player.

“Elise definitely stood out and established herself as the lead candidate,” Schmid, a Hawkeye tennis alum herself, said. “And I knew that once we offered the job, you know, it was a dream for her to come back … You can’t put a price tag on being able to come back to your alma mater.”

On Dec. 5, 2022, after one year removed as a player, van Heuvelen Treadwell was named assistant coach for the Iowa women’s tennis team. Van Heuvelen Treadwell was a volunteer assistant for the Hawkeyes directly after her playing career ended in 2021 then went to Delaware from January-November 2022 as an assistant coach before returning to Iowa.

A native of East Sussex, England, van Heuvelen Treadwell remembers Iowa as the first school she visited. Flying into a snow-covered Cedar Rapids in February 2016 and committing to Iowa in August of the same year, van Heuvelen Treadwell now calls the Hawkeye State her home.

“I’m like, ‘I’m going home,’ and my mom’s like, ‘What do you mean, you’re going back to England?’” van Heuvelen Treadwell said. “‘Oh no, I’m sorry, Iowa City.’ So, that’s always something from even my freshman year. I absolutely loved it.”

After reuniting with Schmid and some former teammates, van Heuvelen Treadwell is looking to guide the Hawkeyes back into the tournament while also teaching current players what she learned during her career.

While a Hawkeye player, van Heuvelen Treadwell played alongside current fifth-year senior Samantha Mannix and junior Vipasha Mehra.

“Some people were like, ‘Oh, you know, that’s hard,’” van Heuvelen Treadwell said. “But I think the respect that we all had for each other when we were playing, just the understanding of the underlying respect. They know I want the best for them, and I’m going to use all my expertise to make that happen.”

Schmid agreed, saying van Heuvelen Treadwell has already made an immediate impact on the team because of her past experiences and familiarity with the program.

“Just a great person to have at practice every single day to push them,” Schmid said. “She obviously played at the highest levels, and so I think she has the immediate respect of our team. But more than that, she’s really got a great natural talent for coaching and teaching, and she’s got a coaching mindset and a coaching heart.”

Hawkeye sophomore Barbora Pokorna never played alongside van Heuvelen Treadwell, but she had her as a coach when van Heuvelen Treadwell was a volunteer assistant in the fall of 2021.

“She’s super nice, and she brings a lot of great energy, and she’s a really good coach,” Pokorna said. “So, the chemistry on the team is amazing with her here and with Sasha. I think they balance each other really well, and they’re a really good fit for each other as a coaching team.”

Van Heuvelen Treadwell said she changed her mindset playing under Schmid during her five years at Iowa — and the new assistant coach hopes to introduce these lessons to her players.

“I’m sure Sasha would say I was a pain at some times,” van Heuvelen Treadwell said. “I did have very much a perfectionist mindset when I played, and it was very great sometimes, but a lot of time hindered by performances just because I wanted to be perfect … I think I’ve learned how to use that as a strength rather than harboring the negatives of that. I’m very particular in the details of things.”