On Thursday, Miami’s club tennis team will travel to Orlando, Florida to compete at USTA’s Tennis on Campus (TOC) program’s National Championships.
The club team needed to place in the top-five at TOC’s Midwest Section Championships to advance to the National Championships – they were fourth and were ecstatic. It’s the first time in the program’s history that the team has advanced to Nationals.
The 70 members of the co-ed club sport has been practicing since the beginning of the year and the team’s eight competitive members have been travelling for just as long.
Anyone can join the club team – all skill levels are welcome – and can pay the yearly fee of $110 or a semester fee of $60. The four best boys and four best girls are chosen to travel to Wisconsin, Arizona, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Illinois and throughout Ohio to play other club teams in tournaments. If a member of the club wants to travel, they only need to “challenge” one of the top-eight players and win a match to earn a spot on the travel roster.
Senior Sydney Reichert is the club’s President. She balances the budget, leads practices and is thankful that club tennis has allowed her to continue to play a sport that she loves. She had stopped playing tennis when she was a teenager, but after numerous injuries forced her to stop playing soccer she found Miami’s club tennis team.
“Honestly, it’s the best of both worlds. There are people on club who could easily play varsity, if they wanted, but it wouldn’t be the same experience,” Reichert said. “With club tennis, you have the social aspect. You have the competitive aspect with none of the constraints that the varsity team has – none of the restrictions on your social life and stuff. I’ve loved it, it’s been great for me.”
Reichert’s Co-President, junior Sammud Sharma began playing tennis in India when he was nine. He played throughout high school and considered playing D1 but knew he wasn’t good enough to “make it big.” After deciding to come to Miami, he found the club tennis team at MegaFair.
“I loved it — it was super laid back, super chill. I loved all the people,” Sharma said. “It’s the one thing I’m good at, so I wanted to keep going.”
And for the past three years that Sharma has been on the team, the program has certainly been going. This year, the team played five tournaments during the Fall semester. Spring semester found the team beating a competitive Ohio State team to be well-seeded going to Midwest Sectionals, eventually leading to their fourth place and bid to Nationals.
“It’s great. When you see them in the hallway, you can see that they’re glowing in terms of what they’ve achieved. I really just hope that stuff like this puts tennis more on the radar for Miami,” the club’s faculty advisor Jean-Paul Baldwin said. “Hockey, obviously, gets quite a lot of coverage and football, to an extent, but it’s really great to see tennis being brought up. The idea is just to make it more of a recognized sport at the university.”
Baldwin aims to be as involved as possible, regularly checks in with the team and hopes to see the program welcome players of all different skill levels. He’s played tennis his entire life and attends the hour and a half, to two hour long practices at the varsity courts.
Reichert, Sharma, junior Akhil Kanagaraj, sophomores Brett Schubert and Haley Thoresen and freshmen Nick Ruth, Ellen Hata and Nayana Ravishankar have been practicing four days a week as the Nationals team.
As Miami’s varsity sports seasons came to tragic ends, club tennis is one of the numerous club sports which are seeing success past the regular season.
“The one thing that frustrates me is that people don’t appreciate how good some of our players really are. When I tell people I’m on club tennis they kind of just smile and are like, ‘alright cool,’” Reichert said. “We’re actually really good.”