Luca Staeheli took an unlikely journey from his home in Switzerland to play tennis at NC State.
By Jack Daly ’01
Luca Staeheli grew up playing tennis in Switzerland. While that wasn’t unique — Roger Federer is his idol and lived in Staeheli’s hometown of Wollerau for a spell — the best European players often choose one path after high school: professional tournaments or school.
But Staeheli was interested in playing college tennis in the United States, even though he didn’t know anyone who had made a similar leap. He managed to connect with college coaches, but since he was trying to do all this during the COVID-19 pandemic, the introductions and recruiting visits took place via Zoom.
So it’s safe to say that Staeheli, a German-speaking Alpine enthusiast, had little idea about what awaited him when he arrived in Raleigh in 2021 to play tennis for NC State. “It was pretty tough with a new culture, new language, new people, being far away from home — all that stuff,” says Staeheli, who adds he still misses Switzerland’s majestic peaks.
It was pretty tough with a new culture, new language, new people, being far away from home — all that stuff.
One of the hardest adjustments was on the court. Staeheli was used to doing everything by himself, working individually with his coach. At NC State, he encountered a team environment with a shared sense of purpose. It took him time to appreciate it. Unexpectedly, doubles play provided a bridge.
While he hadn’t focused on doubles in Switzerland, Staeheli clicked with teammate Robin Catry, a senior from Lille, France. The duo debuted in January 2022 as NC State’s #3 pairing before moving up to the team’s top grouping over the course of the spring.
The momentum spilled over to singles Staeheli went 18-8 and was named the 2022 ACC freshman of the year.
Ultimately, Staeheli’s time in the U.S. might be short. Academically, he is already a junior (majoring in economics). With the goal of playing professionally, he anticipates returning home when he completes his degree in 18 months.
Staeheli’s come to appreciate the team aspect of college tennis. Asked about the highlight of his first season with the Wolfpack, Staeheli notes that NC State advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament last year for the first time since 2007, beating multiple top-25 teams over the course of the season.
“The achievement as a team was great,” he says.