As a child, Tena Loe?wen dreamed of becoming an Olympic gymnast.
These days, the only intense balancing the junior standout does is between the Tabor College volleyball and basketball courts. But in trading balance beams and mats for nets and backboards, Loewen has found her niche.
She has excelled in both volleyball and basketball at Tabor, receiving recognition from conference coaches at the conclusion of every season in which she has participated.
The 5-foot, 11-inch outside hitter is a two-time All-KCAC first-team selection in volleyball. She was named KCAC Freshman of the Year her first season on the court.
Loewen has also excelled as a forward in basketball, being named to the All-KCAC freshman team and receiving second-team honors her sophomore year.
While Loewen knew she wanted to play college ball, she was not always set on coming to Tabor.
The early years
A Hillsboro native, Loe?wen said she essentially grew up in the gym.
Her father, Dave, who now serves as assistant professor of education at Tabor, was a coach during Loewen?s early years.
?He tells stories of me?like I?d be bumping a volleyball, then I?d run outside and chase butterflies for awhile and go down the slide, then I?d come back in and run sprints with his team,? she said. ?I was around it ever since I was little.?
Loewen said she enjoyed watching her cousin, Erin (Loewen) Bell, play volleyball and softball at Tabor.
?I remember her teaching me how to pass,? she said. ?I was in elementary school, and we?d pass ?til like a hundred. I thought she was the coolest thing ever.?
Loewen?s older brother, David, who participated in basketball and track at Tabor, also was an early influence.
?I always wanted to keep up with him,? she said. ?I never could, but I tried. He was always teaching me what he was learning.?
At Hillsboro High School, Loewen played volleyball, basketball and softball. An injury gave Loewen a chance to re-evaluate the role of sports in her life.
Loewen tore her ACL during basketball season her junior year. She missed softball in the spring?Hillsboro won state that year?and was not cleared for competition until the day before Hillsboro?s first volleyball tournament the next fall.
?When I was hurt and I didn?t get to play for awhile, just stepping back and realizing sports are not all there is to life, but it is a gift that God has given me,? she said. ?I love worshiping God through that, so if I have an opportunity to play longer, I want to.?
Prior to her injury, Loe?wen said she had been in communication with several colleges about playing ball.
?I (was) at the offer stage with some different colleges, and doors just kept closing,? she said. ?I know God was closing doors.?
Loewen said she had never wanted to attend college in her hometown, but with her options dwindling, she decided on a whim to apply for the Presidential Leadership scholarship at Tabor. She ended up being accepted and had to make a decision within a few weeks.
?I talked to a lot of my mentors,? Loewen said. ?I had a lot of people praying for me. The opportunity to play both basketball and volleyball was pretty neat and unique. I remember I looked at myself in the mirror one night. I said, ?You?re going to Tabor.? I went to sleep and I woke up and I felt good about it, so I was like, ?All right.? And I know this is where I?m supposed to be. I love it.?
Loewen graduated from high school in 2013. During her freshman season at Tabor, the Bluejay volleyball team won the regular-season conference title with a 16-2 record (25-7 overall) and ended the season with a loss to Ottawa in the KCAC tournament semifinals.
One of Loewen?s favorite volleyball memories came earlier that year.
?I remember my freshman year beating Ottawa at home and not realizing how big of a deal that was until everyone stormed the court,? she said.
Loewen led the Bluejays in service aces (37) and ranked fifth in the KCAC with 0.4 aces per set. She earned second-team all-KCAC honors for her performance and was named KCAC Freshman of the Year.
At the conclusion of Loewen?s freshman basketball season, Tabor advanced to the opening round of the NAIA tournament by upsetting top-seeded Southwes?tern in the KCAC tourna?ment championship game.
?There were so many fans, and I just remember having the two student sections on either side of the gym chanting back and forth,? she said. ?It was a pretty big upset. That was a fun game.?
At nationals, Tabor came one point short against Northwestern in the opening round to conclude the season at 21-11.
Loewen led the Bluejays in rebounds (153) and averaged 7.4 points per game. She received honorable mention recognition and was a member of the all-KCAC freshman team.
During Loewen?s sophomore volleyball season, Tabor finished 12-19 after losing a KCAC quarterfinal game to Ottawa. She ranked 25th nationally in kills per set with a KCAC-best 3.64, and ranked 35th in service aces per set (0.45), tying for first in the KCAC. Loewen led the Bluejays in service aces (48) and kills (389) and earned All-KCAC first-team honors.
In basketball, Tabor won the regular-season conference title for the first time since the 2005-06 season.
The Bluejays returned to the national stage for the second consecutive year, where they advanced to the quarterfinal round for the first time in program history. A loss to 19th-ranked Briar Cliff gave Tabor an overall final record of 21-13.
?Nationals is a lot of fun,? Loewen said. ?I think we gained a lot of respect last year. (It) was fun beating teams that other people said we shouldn?t beat.?
Loewen was a second-team selection that year. She led the Bluejays in rebounds (188) and averaged 7.7 points per game.
This fall, Tabor volleyball went 23-12 overall with a season-ending loss to Ottawa in the KCAC semifinals. Loe?wen made the All-KCAC first team, ranking among the top 10 nationally in three categories: third in service aces (78), sixth in service aces per set (0.58) and ninth in kills (525). She was Tabor?s leader in aces and kills, and led the conference in service aces per set (0.6).
Loewen played in Tabor?s final volleyball game of the season Friday, Nov. 13. She went to her first basketball practice the following Mon?day. Three days later, she was on the basketball court for her first game, which, ironically, was against Ottawa.
Over three games played so far this year, Loewen, a preseason all-conference selection, is averaging 7.7 points while shooting better than 58 percent from the field.
Being a member of two collegiate sports has its challenges. Each sport requires a different kind of ?being in shape.?
?Volleyball, you do a lot more jumping, where basketball, there?s a lot more running and shoving that happens, a lot more physical,? Loewen said. ?So that can be difficult.
?As I?ve gotten older, though, it?s gotten easier. This year, I?d say the transition has probably been the easiest it has been because I know most of the girls, I know the coaches, the coaches know me. I know the plays.?
Loewen missed the first six basketball games of this season, which can affect team bonding.
?Basketball kind of seems to get the brunt of the deal with the overlapping sports, but both Coach (Shawn) Reed and Coach Amy (Ratzlaff) are very good with just checking in, communicating, (and) trying to do what?s best for me (and) for the team,? Loewen said. ?(They) see me as a person as opposed to just an athlete, and I appreciate that a lot.?
Balancing two sports with schoolwork can also be time consuming.
?Sometimes I feel like if I have free time?if you want to call it that?I?m doing homework,? she said. ?Some?times sports are the only social part of my day.?
Loewen is majoring in elementary education. She takes classes from her mother, Joanne, an assistant professor of education at Tabor. Tena anticipates graduation in December 2017, after completing her student-teaching practicum.
While there may be challenges to playing two collegiate sports, the benefits outweigh them. Loewen said she enjoys building relationships with teammates and appreciates the variety that playing two sports brings.
?If I only played one sport I would get burned out from it,? she said. ?I love the change. I like being involved with two different sets of people, different coaches. There are aspects of both games that I love a lot.?
Asked if she has a favorite sport, Loewen replied: ?I think if I had a favorite sport, I would only play one.?