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Making Nationals Headlines
By Nicholas J. Walz
Aside from TennisOnCampus.com, the official web home for the 2015 Tennis On Campus National Championship in Cary, N.C., this weekend, several teams in the field of 64 found their story front and center in local news outlets. From coast to coast, TOC was a sports page fixture in the days leading to the start of the tournament.
Take a look at a couple of the best snippets from the week (click on each heading to read the original articles in their entirety):
“...Team members say its never been an expectation or sure thing that [Western Washington] will make the National Championship, and this year was one example of how close they came to losing the streak.
At the Pacific Northwest Section Championship in Beaverton, Oregon, WWU was holding onto third place with the final event coming up. The top three teams get an automatic bid to the National Championship.
Mixed doubles was up next, with WWU leading by just six points. The team fell in an early 5-0 hole, but was able to gut out a win in overtime to send the club’s first team to nationals.
Club President Cooper Anderson was half of the mixed doubles team, and Vice President Nick Jarvis said he had confidence in the team’s leader.
“It was scary, but we were confident we could win it,” Jarvis said in a phone interview. “For years he’s been a mixed player, so he knows how to get it done.”
In his second year as club president, Anderson continued the tradition of a successful WWU team, but now he has to start handing over the reigns to Jarvis because he graduates in the spring.
“It’s a lot of different feelings for me,” Anderson said. “It’s happy because I’m graduating, but it’s sad and nostalgic to look back and see how tennis flew by. It was fun and engaging and tight-knit, but there are a few people chomping at the bit to fill our shoes, so that is the big thing that makes me happy — to see others who want to continue what I’ve helped build.”
“…JMU expects to be quite competitive in the national tournament even though it’s battling with some of the best club teams in the country, including defending champion University of California - Berkeley, which begins play in Pool A.
“We probably have our strongest team that we’ve had in past years by far,” [senior team member Ethan] Polanksy said. “Overall I think we’ve had our most successful year.”
[USTA Tennis On Campus National Manager Glenn] Arrington believes this tournament provides club players an incredible culminating event to their season.
“I’ve been in tennis my entire life,” Arrington said. “This is by far the coolest college event.”
“…Club Tennis president Josh Gabbard said this season has been a particularly successful.
We’ve been actually doing really well with our team,” Gabbard said. “Our top team is 14 and nine whenever a majority of our main players are coming in.”
Gabbard said the growth of the team plays to their advantage in competition and selection of talent.
“We actually tripled in size this year from the recruiting efforts that our team put forth over the summer,” Gabbard said. “We brought in about 20 new people. We brought in some amazing new talent. A lot of them are freshmen, some of them are transfers, so we’ve had an amazing quality talented team this year come through, and that team has been able to be extremely successful.”
Leading up to nationals, the team had their best showing at the regional tournament in the team’s history.
“We’ve never been able to compete in the top bracket of our regional tournament, much less the gold bracket at our big state sectional tournament and we ended up playing in the gold bracket this year,” Gabbard said. “This is our strongest team that club tennis has had since we were founded in .’”
“…Current club president Albert Ha, a fourth-year psychobiology student, has helped foster team spirit by scheduling social events including weekly team meals as well as bowling and mini-golf outings. In May, the team will attend Disneyland’s 24-hour celebration of its 60th anniversary.
“It’s just a great environment because all the people are really respectful of each other, there’s no real drama,” Ha said. “Everyone’s kind and everyone’s really good at tennis.”
Ha spent his first three years at UCLA on the general side of the program before he improved his game enough to make the competitive team in his fourth year.
“Every year, there’s one guy who’s gung-ho about practice but not that impressive winning matches, and he just gets better,” said coach Mark Otten. “Albert’s so involved, he’s playing all the time, he’s at the courts all the time.”
While on the general side of the team, Ha began his ascension to president as safety officer, bringing a first-aid kit to practice everyday, before becoming treasurer. Throughout, he has committed himself to the program. Bogie said Ha will give up his free time to feed balls to teammates outside of practice.
“It really defines my college experience,” Ha said. “Every part of it is very meaningful. Every day I spend here relieves so much stress from my life, it keeps me active and keeps me mentally healthy.’”
“…Don Kim, the team’s captain, outlined some of the difficulties the team went through this year but was full of excitement about the upcoming event:
"We’re proud to make it back to Nationals. It has been a much more difficult road because we lost one of our best players due to graduation, and initially our section was offered only two bids."
The USTA added another national bid to the section making Rutgers eligible for the prestigious tournament, which created another difficulty the team needed to raise funds for tournament cost and travel.
Being a club team RU tennis does not have the same financial backing varsity sports are accustomed to [having]. The Rutgers Tennis Club members were able to cover these expenses through fundraising.
Kim explained: "We were able to raise over $6,000 for expenses. All in all, the difficulties make us a stronger team and even more proud of what we have been able to accomplish."
Follow #TOCNationals on social media throughout the tournament.