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Taking San Diego State to Nationals fulfills a collegiate dream for senior Budd

2016 SDSU team photo 769x349 

By Ashley Marshall

When Jenny Budd arrived on the San Diego State University campus as a freshman in 2013, opportunities to play tennis were few and far between. She could try out for the women’s Division I team or play on a recreational intramural squad, but neither option was quite the right fit for an above average player looking for an enjoyable but competitive match.

Women’s collegiate tennis is a big deal in California. Budd grew up in Oakland on, the other side of San Francisco Bay from college powerhouse Stanford, which has won 17 of California’s 21 NCAA DI titles since 1982. In fact, a California team has contested every women’s DI tennis championship since 1998 – and all except three finals in the past 34 years – so cracking SDSU’s roster was a long shot.

With varsity tennis an unrealistic goal and no club tennis available, Budd took it upon herself to start a coed club team. Of course, not even she could have predicted the team would come together so fast.

Later this month, in just its fourth year, SDSU will make its Tennis On Campus National Championship debut.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” Budd said. “I started the team in my freshman year with a good friend of mine, Wade Houldin, and when we started, we would take anyone. We went to Sectionals, but we weren’t very good and we were near last. The next year, I made it my goal to take a team to Nationals, but I never thought it would happen.”

The road to starting a club team was not easy, but Budd and Houldin persevered. SDSU’s club sports office initially rejected their 2013 proposal to form a team, citing a lack of interest as a determining factor. When the duo returned undeterred six months later, the club was given the green light to become an established student organization. Six months after that, the organization was formally recognized as an official sports club, bringing with it funding and resources from the school.

“I think we will surprise some people, because we’ve held our own in the [Southern California] section,” said Budd, whose father taught her to play tennis when she was 3 years old. “This has been my biggest passion ever since. When I came to college, I wasn’t good enough to play on the D-I team, so I started a club team of my own. My whole incentive was to continue my love for the sport and to help others continue their passion.”

The initial five-member group quickly doubled to 10. By Budd’s junior year, the team had doubled again to 20. And last semester, Budd welcomed 55 players to the first round of tryouts and said she never expected the club to grow to a point where she had to cut players.

“It’s just incredible,” said Budd, a finance major who will work in an HR consulting firm after graduation. “The fact that I set this goal my sophomore year and now seeing it come to reality is something else. It didn’t hit me until a week ago when I realized this is my last Tennis On Campus event. It’s certainly bittersweet, but I’m glad I’m ending on a positive note and I’m happy I was instrumental in that.”

SDSU secured its bid to Nationals by winning its round-robin pool in February’s Tennis On Campus Southern California Championship and finishing fifth overall. The school lost to eventual runners-up UCLA in the gold bracket before outlasting rival UC San Diego in the super tiebreaker of the back draw.

Now with the luxury of being able to look back at how much the club has grown since 2013, Budd can appreciate all the hard work that made the journey a possibility.

“I would say the most important thing is perseverance,” said the senior, who was referring to building a club from nothing, but could have easily been talking about a greater life lesson in general. “I just wanted it so bad. It was my passion.”