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SDSU's Sister Act

Roxanne and Sierra Ellison demonstrate success on and off the tennis court.
Roxanne and Sierra Ellison work well together on the court during a match, as well as off the court.
Roxanne and Sierra Ellison work well together on the court during a match, as well as off the court.

Roxanne and Sierra Ellison each stand nearly six-foot tall and have long, blond hair. The SDSU juniors share the same major, and up until this semester, they have taken the same courses since arriving on campus in 2008. The two student-athletes also comprise the top doubles pairs on the SDSU women's tennis team.

Roxanne and Sierra look and act like twins, but they are very different breeds.

Roxanne, who is one year older than her sister, is right-handed; Sierra’s dominant hand is her left. Roxanne plays tennis with finesse; Sierra is a power player. Roxanne would rather do homework; Sierra prefers tests. Roxanne is calm and collected; Sierra is wired with excitement. Roxanne likes structure, whereas Sierra has a spur-of-the-moment mentality. Roxanne uses yoga to relax; Sierra unwinds by reading or writing.

These differences have molded Roxanne and Sierra into a dynamic duo, not just as sisters, but as best friends, teammates, entertainment associates and business partners.

“We just fit together,” Sierra said. “We’re two completely different pieces that happen to fit together.”
 
A match made at SDSU


In 2003, Roxanne and Sierra participated in a 14-and-under national tennis tournament in San Diego. After an early exit to the tournament — “We played terribly,” Sierra recalled — they decided to make good use of their time in San Diego by visiting SDSU, where they coincidentally ran into SDSU women’s tennis head coach Peter Mattera.

“There was just a connection,” Sierra said of their first meeting with Mattera.

According to Mattera, “They were certainly on my radar screen pretty early on.”

After visiting the campus and discovering the university’s up-and-coming television, film and new media program, the decision to attend SDSU was a no-brainer.

“We fell in love,” Roxanne said.

“There was no other school we wanted to go to,” Sierra added.

A sacrifice for Sierra   

Growing up, Roxanne and Sierra always participated in activities as a pair. They performed in both musical and theatrical productions together. They took dance classes together. They volunteered at charities together. And they played tennis together.

Roxanne and Sierra became a potent doubles pair and won several tournaments throughout California. In 2006, they became the number-one ranked junior doubles team in the nation.

The next year, Roxanne — who was one grade above Sierra at the time — graduated from Tesoro High School in Las Flores, Calif. Rather than take her tennis talents to the collegiate level right away, Roxanne went another route: She took a year off school and waited for Sierra to graduate so they could attend SDSU together for the full four years.

“She wasn’t necessarily just doing it for her — she was doing it for us,” Sierra said. “And that meant a lot to me.”

Added Roxanne, “We’ve always been an inspiration to one another.”

Modern-day renaissance women

Roxanne and Sierra are the 27th-ranked doubles team in Division-I women’s tennis, according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s most recent rankings. Off the tennis court, the student-athletes serve aces as well.

In the classroom, Roxanne and Sierra are near-4.0 GPA students. And the two-woman band recently started their own online interview program dubbed “An Overnight Success,” which they produce, direct, edit, write and host together.

“They work remarkably well in film production because one of them gravitates toward the planning (and) preparation (stages) while the other excels in the actual production arena — the execution phase of the creative process,” said SDSU television and film professor Bob Jordan, who has developed a close relationship with the sisters. “It’s like they are two machines in perfect sync.”

Roxanne and Sierra are also the national teen spokespeople for two of Kathy Ireland’s charities, and they created a fashion line for young girls.

“We’re making the most of life right now,” Roxanne said. “And for us, that’s what makes us happy.”

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