Oct. 10, 2011
SAN DIEGO, Calif.- The match is about to start but Laura Claus is still tying her shoes. Sure, it's taken her nearly ten minutes to complete this normally mindless task, but it's not just a matter of loop, swoop, and pull for the University of San Diego junior. Instead, she's been using the time to get her mind right for her upcoming battle.
As she gingerly handles the laces of her spotless white Nikes, Claus finds her focus in this zen-like pre-match routine. Every match, no questions asked- she takes her time to lace up her sneakers and takes a swig of the water bottle under her feet, which is always flanked by a bottle of apple juice, a routine she's practiced since she was a young player growing up in Germany.
For Claus, a native of Wiesbaden, Germany, this custom has translated into terrific success throughout her first two seasons as a Torero. En route to being named first-team All-West Coast Conference in singles in 2011 and honorable mention in doubles, Claus compiled a team-best 24-6 singles record, including a near-flawless 7-1 mark against WCC opponents, while also throwing in a career-long 16-match singles winning streak for good measure.
As the Toreros' primary No. 3 last season, Claus helped guide the USD women to their first NCAA Championship appearance since 1999, leading the Toreros to a first-round victory over UNLV before eventually losing to UCLA in the second round. Claus and fellow German, Anna Depenau (Gielenkirchen, Germany), were the only Toreros to win all four of their singles matches in the WCC Championships, where USD finished second, and the NCAAs.
It's safe to say that Claus has fit right into USD's tennis plans since arriving in San Diego three years ago. After getting her start in tennis through the influence of her family, notably her father's aunt, who still plays today at 90 years old, Claus split her early athletic years between tennis and field hockey. Around the age of 10, the German Tennis Federation recognized Claus's potential on the court and approached her about joining the Federation, where Claus was quickly funneled into a competitive training program designed to develop future German tennis professionals.
Claus started traveling heavily around Germany and Europe to compete in tournaments throughout her teenage years. At 16, she advanced to the quarterfinals of the U18 German Championships, proving to herself that she fit right in with Germany's older, better players and giving her the kind of success that told her she could play tennis at a high level.
"You start winning tournaments and get better and better and you get confidence," said Claus about her developing passion for tennis as a teenager. "It's through winning tournaments that you realize that this is something you want to get involved with and it's rewarding and fun. [The German Championships] were the first time I reached something like that and I was working very hard and it kind of paid off. Then you feel like this is actually working what I'm doing."
Before long Claus had broken into the top-10 of the German tennis rankings and began seeing the kind of attention paid by American college coaches to top international prospects. When the letters and e-mails started rolling in, it was the first time that Claus had even considered college tennis as an option, let alone traveling to the United States to pursue it. The 80+ schools that were competing for her services brought the idea of playing collegiately in the US to the forefront of Claus' plans.
"I got a lot of offers and I decided I wanted to go somewhere sunny and warm and where I could practice outside," said Claus. "I looked at schools on the west coast and I didn't really consider USD, honestly. A lot of coaches came to Germany to look at how I was playing, but I didn't really feel comfortable with them."
When Claus came on a recruiting trip to a handful of schools in the US, USD wound up on the list despite the fact that head coach Sherri Stephens had never seen Claus play in person, only on a video that Claus had sent to Stephens herself.
"I loved the USD campus, environment, coaches, and the team. Everything just fit together. The weather was perfect to practice and play."
The decision to attend college certainly made Claus' parents happy, since they had always encouraged Laura to get a good education that would set her up for success off the court later in life. So far Claus, a Psychology and Business Administration double major, has followed her parents' academic footsteps- her mother, Elisabeth, started her own business as a psychiatrist specializing in family therapy and patients with ADHD, while her father, Dieter, is a neurologist and works with Claus' mother.
Last year, Claus put together an impressive 3.93 GPA, earning her WCC Commissioner's Honor Roll recognition, WCC All-Academic honors and an ITA Scholar-Athlete nod, not to mention being the highest GPA among all USD student-athletes for the 2010-2011 academic year. The opportunity to play tennis while also earning her degree is something that Claus truly appreciates and would not have had in Germany.
"We don't have college tennis at all in Germany. We don't have the college and sports combinations. I'm very glad I came here because I can do what I love; that is practicing, being on the court, and having fun with my team but also doing the majors I want to do. It's just perfect. I love the combination of tennis and school. And I have awesome professors and everything just worked out."
Claus' athletic and academic excellence is a direct reflection of her German background. She admits that she fits the quintessential German tennis player profile to a tee.
"A German tennis player is very, very hard-working, very disciplined, very organized, on time all the time. They're just very, very focused. Germans tend to be a little more negative, I would say, compared to other cultures. They get angry at themselves very fast."
Claus adds how she follows that model: "I have a plan for everything. I know when to be on the court, when to leave the court, when I have conditioning. I'm a perfectionist. That's a strength but also a weakness. I always want to do everything perfect and if it doesn't work I get frustrated. That's kind of the German thing."
For someone who is used to having complete control of her environment, it was a huge adjustment to life in a new country, dealing with new people and unfamiliar customs. Claus had never been to the US before tennis brought her to USD and she can look back now at how far she has come in her relatively short time in America.
"I had a big, big culture shock when I came here. Everything was huge! I was just overwhelmed because there was so much variety of things and everything is WAY bigger than in Germany, I mean EVERYTHING- streets, houses, cars."
In addition to experiencing Mexican food for the first time and getting used to what Claus describes as a much "warmer" American culture where physical contact and close personal interaction are the norm, Claus had to adjust to a new language, not just for basic communication, but in order to hold her own in classes at a very academically-challenging institution.
"It was pretty hard. My first semester I took six classes and the first month I didn't understand what the professors were saying. I was missing due dates and exam dates. I didn't know what the syllabus was. Then I started translating readings into German, which took A LOT of time because I had to translate and then learn the vocabulary in English too. It was a lot but you kind of pick it up. You get really frustrated when you can't express what you want to say, you can't express your feelings properly. My freshman year was bad but I just kind of adapted."
Now that she has settled into her new home- albeit most likely a temporary home since she wants to eventually move back to Europe to pursue a career in management consulting- Claus recognizes the value of the experience she had in transitioning to a new culture.
"I'm way more outgoing than I was in Germany. In Germany you kind of work by yourself and you're more introverted. People here are way more extroverted. I kind of adapted to that. Also, I think I'm more balanced in life in general. I enjoy everything I'm doing. I'm trying to enjoy every minute I'm on the court. It may sound weird but I love studying and I love what I do. I found something that I love and it keeps me going."
Don't let the quiet, unassuming demeanor sway you, however. Claus transforms into a different person on the court. While not always the most demonstrative or loudest, she is a self-described "fighter". Nowhere has that been shown better than her clinching singles victory last season that helped the Toreros upset then-No. 15 Washington at home.
Claus was playing the final match of the day, with the outcome resting on the result of her contest. Claus held a 5-4 advantage in the third set over Washington's Samantha Smith, but dropped consecutive games, giving Smith the 6-5 edge. With her back against the wall, Claus broke Smith's serve to even it at 6-6 and then pounded away like a calculating machine until pulling out the win with a final tally of 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (5).
"I'm really feisty on the court. A lot of people criticize me for that but I think it's a good thing, honestly. I think that's my strength. I won a lot of matches, like the Washington match, where you just have to act like that. You have to be confident and go out there thinking `I'm just going to win'."
The confidence Claus exudes comes from the lessons she has gleaned from those individuals who have had a notable influence on her over the years.
"Sherri and Pato (assistant coach Patricia Tarabini) and (volunteer assistant coach) Millie (Sequera Huss), they help me grow on the court. I feel like when you improve on the court you improve in your life too. You know how to handle things better. They taught me how to handle pressure better. I can see why I do so well in academics because I do so well on the court. I learned a lot of stuff that you can project to other things in your life."
Despite the success that Claus experienced individually and with the team last year, she believes that nothing should change in terms of her preparation or how the team handles itself moving forward.
"Since we did so well last season expectations are really high and we have to keep working and learning how to deal with that pressure we have on us right now. It's not always good just to keep it going. Things have to change now that we want to improve for the season. People are more confident. I feel that when you achieve something you can lay back for a while but now it's time to get back on track and to improve and work on things that maybe didn't work last season."
If there's one thing that Claus has exemplified in her time as a Torero, it's that consistency and relentless determination to reach personal perfection is a sure recipe for success on the court and off. And as long as Claus is taking her sweet time in order to achieve that for herself, it is certainly going to rub off on her teammates.
Torero Timeout with Lauren King
Check out Softball Senior Lauren King's dorm room as she makes a evening snack
Pick Up Tickets for the Gonzaga Game
Students that make a $5 donation will be entered to win big prizes
Baseball Season Opener Preview
San Diego plays No. 6 Vanderbilt Thursday
Torero Timeout with Sarah Kapple
Take a Timeout by the beach with cross country/track Senior Sarah Kapple as she goes for a morning jog
Softball Season Opener at Arizona
Softball kicks off their season in the Kajikawa Classic at ASU
Torero Timeout with Aubrey Ward-El
Learn a little more about Ward-El in 60 seconds of rapid fire of questions
Meet the Toreros: Gui Osorio
Get to know USD Men's Tennis Freshman Gui Osorio
For the Love of the Game Recap
USD's baseball fundraiser honored the Class of 2007 and MLB players, Kris Bryant, AJ Griffin and Sammy Solis
Torero Timeout with Filip Vittek
Senior tennis player Filip Vittek takes a timeout on the way to practice
Men's Tennis Head To L.A. To Play In ITA Kick Off Weekend
Watch the season preview with seniors Josh Page, Filip Vittek & Head Coach Ryan Keckley
USD Women's Tennis Hosts Season Opener
The Toreros open their 2017 spring season at home against UCSD and Cal State Fullerton
Torero Timeout With AS President TJ Hodges
Take 60 seconds to learn a bit about graduating junior & cross-country runner TJ Hodges
Torero Timeout With Bri Jurries
Take the first Timeout of the New Year with senior swimmer Bri Jurries
USD Men's Basketball Teams Up With PYBL Challenged Division
The Toreros teach children basketball drills and games in annual community service project
Bill McGillis Introduced as AD
Bill McGillis Introductory Press Conference
USD's White Christmas Music Video
USD student-athletes sing and dance to White Christmas as a send off for the holidays
Torero Timeout with Kat Hamilton
Catch up with Women's Basketball Guard while she studies for finals
FCS Playoff Highlights Against Cal Poly
Watch the full highlights from the historic win against Cal Poly in the first round in the FCS Playoffs
Torero Timeout with Olin Carter
Take a 60 second timeout and learn something new about the sophomore basketball player from Dallas, Texas
North Dakota State Preview
USD goes on to play in the second round of the FCS Playoffs against NDSU
Torero Timeout with Lauren Fuller
Learn some quick facts about USD Women's Volleyball Sophomore Lauren Fuller as she grabs her dinner
USD Football Makes Team History in FCS Playoffs
San Diego heads to the second round of the FCS Playoffs for the first time
USD Volleyball 2016 NCAA Selection Show
USD will play Baylor in the first round of the NCAA Tournament
Torero Timeout with Brian Riley
Get to know Senior and Co-Captain Riley during his workout
USD Football Reacts to FCS Playoff Selection Show
USD will play Cal Poly in first round of the FCS Playoffs
USD Football Does the Mannequin Challenge
USD goes undefeated in the PFL after a win against Campbell on Saturday
Football Plays Last Game of the 2016 PFL Season
USD will be undefeated if they come home with a win at Campbell Saturday
USD Clinched PFL Championship Title
San Diego defeated Stetson 42-7 and will go on to compete in the FCS Playoffs
Senior Night and Last Home Game for USD Football
USD Plays for PFL Championship title
Men's Basketball Season Opener Friday Night
The USD Toreros play at SDSU November 11th for their first game of the season
USD Won Exhibition Game Saturday Night
San Diego defeated UDLAP with a score of 49-25
USD Play Exhibition Game Against Team From Mexico
San Diego plays Universidad de las Americas Puebla November 5th at 4
San Diego Seniors and Coaches Attend Media Day
Seniors Bailey & Hood and Coaches Fisher & Lamont attend the 2016-17 WCC Basketball Tip-Off
USD Cross Country Competes in Home Race
Hughes and Burke finish first of the USD teams
Sixth PFL Game Against Marist
The two undefeated team in the PFL go head to head Saturday morning
USD Beats Valparaiso at Home
San Diego football won it's fifth straight PFL game of the season
Toreros Play LMU & Pepperdine at Home
No. 5 USD Volleyball play LMU on Thursday night and Pepperdine Saturday Afternoon
USD Hosts Valparaiso
The Toreros take on Valparaiso at home Saturday afternoon
Women's Soccer Plays BYU at Home
After a win at Gonzaga the Toreros take on BYU in the Torero Stadium
USD Women Lead Softball Clinic
USD Softball worked with Montgomery Middle School in community service project
USD Plays Drake In Fourth PFL Game Of The Season
The Toreros travel to Iowa in hopes of continuing their undefeated PFL season
The Rise (1973-84)
Short documentary on men's basketball's jump to DI and their first WCC championship
San Diego Beats Davidson 52-3
USD now 3-0 in the PFL
Sixth Man Night: The Rise
Men's Basketball fundraiser brings together alumni, student-athletes and the USD community
Thrive Elementary Visits Men's Soccer Team
Toreros put on skills clinic for local children
Meet the Toreros: Allyson Eylers
Freshman setter from Gilbert, Arizona
USD Receives Award From Autism Tree Project Foundation
The Legacy Award goes to USD for football and baseball's work with the athlete-mentor program
USD plays Davidson in Torero Stadium for Homecoming Weekend
Toreros play Davidson hoping to take home the 25th straight PFL home victory
Pack the Pavilion Night Against BYU
No. 6 Toreros battle No. 11 BYU for the first place spot in conference
Toreros Prepare For Butler
Smith and Coach Lindsey talk challenges and strategies for first away PFL game
Meet the Toreros: Megan Jacobsen
Jacobsen is a 6'2" middle blocker from Tacoma, Washington
USD Wins Big Conference Game Against Dayton
Toreros beat Dayton 34-22
Volleyball Plays USF for First WCC Play
Kristen Gengenbacher & Kaity Edwards talk about excitement for WCC play
USD Hosts Dayton in PFL Opener
Co-Captain Brian Riley & Coach Lindsey talk about the challenges of the Saturday's game
Volleyball Highlights from Wins Over UCSB and LBSU
Volleyball up to no. 7 after dominant weekend
Meet The Toreros: Ana Ramos
Freshman guard from Portugal
Cross Country Shows Speed on Home Course
The women finished second overall & the men finished fourth overall
Meet the Toreros: Kaity Edwards
6-2 MH From Playa Del Rey, CA
Second Home Tournament Preview
Lauren Schad & Jayden Kennedy talk about new ranking and preview upcoming games
Home Cross Country Race Preview
Head Coach Guarino and seniors Benster & Smith talk about the new team
Volleyball Highlights from Home Tournament Sweep
Volleyball beats UCI, CU and UCLA at their first home tournament
Sixth Man Night
Head Coach Smith talks about upcoming annual fundraiser
Volleyball's First Home Tournament of the Season
Kramer & Jennings recap last game and share excitement for upcoming tournament
Football Plays Cal Poly After 27-0 Opening Week Win
Giorgi and Lindsey recap game against WNM and preview Cal Poly
Men's Soccer Home Opener Preview
Price & McFadden preview UCD & Sac State
Postgame Highlights & Interviews
Western New Mexico Preview
Jamal Agnew & Anthony Lawrence break down WNMU.
USD vs. Stanford Volleyball UPSET
Torero women win 3 of 5 sets against #11 Stanford.
Meet the Toreros: Isaiah Pineiro
Versatile 6'6" forward will redshirt 2016-17 season.
Men's Soccer Kicks Off Season In NC
Coach McFadden & Michael Turner Preview Matches vs Duke & Elon.
Softball Golf Tournament Promo
September 17th at Bernardo Heights CC.
Meet the Toreros: Isaiah Wright
Former Utah Ute will redshirt the 2016-17 season.
Training Camp Update
Team prepares for Saturday scrimmage.
Meet the Toreros: Patricia Brossmann
6'0" freshman forward from Berlin, Germany.
Meet the Toreros: Mark Carbone
6'2" freshman guard from Wethersfield, CT.
Meet the Toreros: Madison Pollock
6'1" freshman guard from Snohomish, Wash.
Women's Soccer In the Community
Toreros host soccer skills clinic at Linda Vista Elementary.
Meet the Toreros: Juwan Gray
6'8" freshman forward from Dover, Delaware.
Toreros Open Training Camp
The USD women's soccer team began training camp today.
Meet the Toreros: Nassir Barrino
6'0" freshman guard from Newark, New Jersey.
Meet the Toreros: José Martinez
6'10" freshman forward from Cayey, Puerto Rico.
Meet the Toreros: Frank Ryder
6'10" freshman forward from Boulder, Colo.
2015-16 Highlight Video
All the top plays from 2015-16
Jordan Angus - Male Torero of the Year
Angus reflects on his time at USD
Malina Hood - Female Torero of the Year
Malina Hood looks back at her USD career
NCAA Tournament Preview
San Diego faces Vanderbilt in first round
2016 Celebration of Excellence
Behind the Scenes at the COE
Toreros Participate in Linda Vista Parade
Toreros Participate in Linda Vista Parade
Men's Tennis senior Day
The Toreros host LMU and Pepperdine Saturday and Sunday
Softball WCC Preview
The Toreros host Saint Mary's Saturday and Sunday
2016 San Diego Crew Classic
The Toreros show speed against the nation's top crews
The Torero Baseball Experience
Kris Bryant & Brian Matusz reflect on their time at USD
MBB Senior Night
Jito Kok and Duda Sanadze prepare for the final home game
USD Baseball Season Preview
Season starts at No. 3 Vanderbilt February 19
USD Softball Season Preview
Season starts February 12
USD travels to No. 9 UCLA Friday
Toreros Host Kentucky Saturday
USD looks to defend home court against No. 22 Kentucky
Toreros Host Pepperdine & LMU
USD returns home after four-game road trip
Toreros Team Up with PYBL
Men's Basketball hosts annual clinic for Challenged Division
Men's Tennis 2016
USD opens at home vs UC Irvine and UCSD Saturday
Preview of USD women's basketball WCC opener vs. BYU.
City Championship Highlights
Relive the Toreros' Upset over SDSU at Petco Park
Toreros to Host Hope International
The 9-1 Toreros will host Hope International in their final game before WCC play
Toreros Stun Aztecs at Petco
Postgame reaction and press conferences
Toreros Return Home
USD will host Bethesda before Sunday's City Championship at Petco Park
Men's Basketball Season Tickets
Starting as Low as $99
Pono Keni and Coach Lindsey talk about Saturday's Senior Day game against Butler
Coach Fisher and forward Maya Hood talk about Tuesday's home-opener against CSUN
Coach Smith and Brett Bailey preview the season opener at USC
Jonah Hodges and Dale Lindsey talk about Jonah's return and preview Davidson game
San Diego Fall Classic Preview
Coach Dagman previews the San Diego Fall Classic
USD's Women's Basketball team will start their season at Nevada this weekend
USD Men's Basketball - The Origins (1955-1973)
A Glance at the Beginnings of Torero Hoops
Coach Lindsey and Jeff Starr preview Campbell
Coach Lindsey and Jereke Armstrong talk about the season so far
WCC Media Day
Behind the scenes with Men's and Women's Basketball at WCC media day
Dale Lindsey and Anthony Lawrence on USD's 45-14 win
Anthony Lawrence and Coach Lindsey preview game vs. Warner
Torero Community Service
USD Athletics helps out at Father Joe's Village in downtown San Diego
Men's Basketball Camp Update
Kok and Carter talk about the upcoming season
Toreros host Bulldogs for Homecoming game
Toreros look for 4th straight win
Pack the Stadium Night
ITA All-American's Preview
Petronijevic, Angus, & Vittek Prepare
USD Looks to Extend Home Win Streak
Toreros First True Road Game of 2015
CSUN and UCSB Preview
Toreros Look to Extend Win Streak
Aztec Invite Recap
Both Squads Finish Second
Toreros Take on Cross-town Rival
Highlights from 45-21 win
2015 Home Opener
Previewing Western New Mexico
Volleyball Tournament Preview
A preview of the USD Tournament
Men's Soccer Season Opener
Previewing No. 16 Cal
Training Camp Update
Coach Lindsey Recaps the First Two Weeks
2015 WSOC Preview
A brief preview of the 2015 Toreros.