Sean Hill's journey to BYU
Sean Hill first held a tennis racquet when he was eight years old. From that moment, Hill had his sights set on competing at a high level.
He began by playing at the Berkeley Tennis Club located in his hometown of Berkeley, California. He would play in leagues with other kids his age who were interested in tennis. As he got older, Hill began to compete in novice competitions to improve his competitive skills. From there, he worked his way up to playing in national competitions.
“When I was about 15 years old, I started competing in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Junior Circuit,” Hill said. “It just made sense to try and continue tennis at a collegiate level.”
To help him focus on his tennis career, Hill did high school online, allowing him to move around for his tennis training. He began his training in Tamarac, Florida, at La Academy de Tennis.
Because of his dedication to tennis, Hill finished high school as a five-star recruit, ranking as one of the nation’s top 75 players.
Hill’s options for playing in college were very open. After visiting many schools, he decided to attend Wake Forest University. The Demon Deacons had a strong tennis program and was ranked No. 8 in the nation at the time.
Hill joined Wake Forest when school started in September and began practices right away. During his freshman year, the Demon Deacons were ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation. However, his father began to worry about the possibility of Hill not making it in the starting lineup, so Hill began to think about transferring to a different school for his sophomore year.
Hill began his search for a new team. When he found BYU, he thought it was the perfect fit with a great tennis program and affordable tuition.
After reaching out to BYU’s men’s tennis head coach Brad Pearce, it took some time for Hill to be accepted in the tennis program because he didn’t have a fall season record to show his abilities. Once accepted to the program, Hill began his application to BYU and was able to join the Cougars for his sophomore year.
When Hill arrived at BYU for his first time, he noticed a whole new culture around campus.
“I feel like almost all of the people are nice and understanding here,” Hill shared. “I’m not a member of the Church, but I feel like I’ve been able to adapt well to a different environment.”
In Hill’s first year at BYU, the Cougars hosted the 2017 Mountain Regional Championships. Hill went into the tournament unseeded against 128 players from other universities in the region.
Hill secured three singles wins comfortably before he went head-to-head with the No. 1 seed, Dan Little from the University of Utah, in the Round of 16.
“I just told myself, ‘You’re going to have to take more risks, hit harder and do something that you’re not super comfortable with,’” Hill said.
When Hill came out with a win over the No. 1 seed, he was stunned. He never thought he would be one of the top eight players in the tournament starting with 128 players. The win over Little filled Hill with confidence and helped him get in the zone for his quarterfinal match.
Hill went on to win the quarterfinals and the semifinals to advance to the Mountain Region championship match against the No. 3 seed from New Mexico, Ricky Hernandez. Hill continued his tournament dominance, beating Hernandez in two sets (6-2, 6-1).
“I definitely didn’t come in thinking that I was going to win, because I was the underdog for the first match just based on the seeding,” Hill said. “I told myself prior to that tournament that I just wanted to have fun and play my best. If I’m going to lose then I at least want to play my best.”
His sophomore season continued to be successful as he posted win after win in the No. 1 spot in both singles and doubles.
Hill continued to climb as his junior year proved to be even more successful than the last. Hill opened the season nationally ranked in singles and doubles, ranking as high as No. 18 in the nation in doubles and No. 89 in singles.
Hill and teammate Jeffrey Hsu made their debut in the national polls when they came in at No. 19 after upsetting the No. 7 doubles team in the nation at the 2018 ITA All-American tournament.
“I knew they were the No. 4 seed, but I didn’t even look at their national rank before the match,” Hill said. “I was in disbelief that we won and overall I was happy that we played so well.”
When rankings were released and Hill and Hsu saw they were ranked No. 19, they were both shocked. They had predicted they would land in the 30-40 range, so when they came out in the top 20, the pair was ecstatic.
After a successful preseason, Hill continues to perform well as he played singles and doubles in the No. 1 position for BYU. Throughout his two seasons as a Cougar, Hill has posted a 48-17 singles record and a 43-15 doubles record.
Hill has received a plethora of accolades. During his sophomore season, Hill was named to the All-WCC First Team Singles and the All-WCC Second Team Doubles. He had a repeat appearance on the All-WCC First Team Singles his junior season while moving up to the All-WCC First Team Doubles with Hsu.
His strong performance as a junior also led him to be selected as the 2019 ITA Player to Watch for the Mountain Region. The honor is given to a non-senior player is tabbed to be a top performer the next season.
As he approaches his final season as at BYU, Hill has set big goals for himself. While still taking it one match at a time, Hill wants to work his way onto the pro circuit where he can continue to improve his game.