A teen who had a sexual relationship with her adult tennis instructor protested by letter at his sentencing Thursday in Minneapolis that they are in love and that his prosecution was unjust.

"Never did I once feel that what we had was wrong," wrote the young woman, who is 18 now but was 16 when she and Nathan McLain, then about 29, started having sex.

The woman plays college tennis now and was not in the Hennepin County courtroom; a victim's advocate read her letter. She is prohibited from contacting McLain, who received two years' probation.

McLain, 31, of Savage, pleaded guilty to fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct, a misdemeanor, as part of a plea agreement. Although 16 is the age of legal consent, the court found that McLain was in a position of authority, making the sex illegal.

McLain, a former University of Minnesota tennis star and guitarist for the popular local rock band SIKA, had instructed the girl since she was 13.

He was charged in February 2010 with two counts of felony third-degree criminal sexual conduct after the girl's father discovered sexually explicit text messages and e-mails. The young woman made clear that she resented her parents' intervention, saying it ruined her relationship with them.

"Everyone seems to believe I am a victim, but everything was consensual," she wrote. "I even initiated a lot of what we did."

Addressing District Judge Richard Scherer, she wrote: "If you are going to punish him for loving me for loving him, then you are heartless."

The girl's parents told the judge that McLain betrayed their trust and that their daughter is still too young to realize he took advantage of her. "This went from a teenage girl's crush to believing she was in love with him," the mother said.

McLain apologized to the judge and the family, saying, "I learned a lot from my mistake, and I'm very sorry."

Along with probation, McLain will have to register as a sex offender for 10 years and pay a $365 fine. He's not allowed to have unsupervised contact with underage females unless parents sign a waiver. He may still supervise group lessons. A restraining order barring contact between him and the young woman remains in place, although she could have it lifted.

Defense attorney Eric Olson said afterward that McLain thought the relationship was legal because he was not a coach who took her to tournaments or could influence her rankings. "It was really two people with a common interest who enjoyed being with each other," Olson said.

After the hearing, the young woman's parents expressed concern about the light sentence and that McLain can still instruct tennis. Both said they hope their daughter appreciates that they were only looking out for her.

"We hope one day she does," her father said. "Time will tell."

Abby Simons • 612-673-7212