ORLANDO, Fla. -- For five collegiate programs making the journey to the Tennis On Campus National Championship for the first time, the three-day showcase of coed club tennis is more than just another tournament.
It’s not only the culmination of years of hard work and perseverance, but it’s also a sign that the newcomers are ready to compete on the biggest stage.
Northern Arizona University, Tarrant County College, Colorado School of Mines, the University of Rochester and Boston University will rub shoulders with the best club tennis teams in the nation, as they look to make their Nationals debut in Orlando a memorable one.
Northern Arizona won the 2017 Spring Invitational to get an automatic spot to Nationals, while Tarrant County College earned its spot after picking up a prestigious regional award.“It was incredible to be named Club of the Year in Texas and qualify for Nationals,” said Tarrant County club co-captain Tim Sebesta.
“We especially look forward to playing at the tennis center in Orlando and meeting tennis players from all over America.“It’s hard being a community college because of turnover. We work hard to recruit from the high school programs in the Fort Worth area, but we’re constantly losing players that end up moving to four-year universities. It’s hard to keep the numbers up, and we try hard to recruit constantly.”
Tarrant County’s National Championship squad may only include four sophomores and two freshmen, but the team from Fort Worth, Texas, has already earned several impressive wins this season in just the club’s fifth year.The Trailblazers defeated Rice University, which will compete in Orlando this year, and Lamar University, which earned its first trip to Nationals in 2015.
Now they’ll be hoping to build on the success to keep club tennis on the map at the community college.Elsewhere among first-time teams, Boston University placed fifth in the New England sectional tournament in October to book a spot in Orlando.
The Terriers defeated Providence College, the University of Maine and Wesleyan University in pool play and toppled the University of Connecticut and Tufts University in the main bracket to advance to the 64-team national tournament at the USTA National Campus.
Rochester also earned its bid by finishing fifth in the USTA Eastern section’s regional tournament, while the Colorado School of Mines placed fourth in the gold bracket of the 12th annual Intermountain sectional competition in Salt Lake City in March.
For Rochester, it marked the second consecutive year the YellowJackets finished fifth, and while the section only has four automatic spots at Nationals, the club made the cut when Binghamton University announced it was unable to attend.
Similarly, in the Intermountain section, Colorado School of Mines was the beneficiary of a team not able to compete at Nationals.
University of Colorado – Boulder and BYU secured their spots by reaching the final of the sectional tournament, while Colorado State claimed the final bid by defeating Mines in the third-place match.
But when BYU turned down its bid, Mines was elevated into the third and final spot.The Orediggers from Golden, Colo., have a small student population from which to recruit – only Carleton College and Georgetown University have smaller student populations among the teams competing in Orlando this week – making it difficult to field lineups and build team depth.
“It means a lot, being a female president from Colorado School of Mines, [which has a] 75 percent male population,” junior Jaime Hill said. “Getting the team to Nationals this year means we beat the odds, coming from a small Division II school with less than 5,000 undergrad students.”