NCAA Div 1 National Champions
If you’ve been following me on Twitter and Facebook then you know that the Virginia Cavaliers men’s tennis team and the Florida Gators Women’s tennis team are the 2017 NCAA Div. 1 National Champions. For the Cavaliers, becoming Back-to-Back-to-Back National Champions (three-peat) puts them in the same conversation as the ’98-’00 Yankees, the ’00-’02 Lakers, and the ’13-’16 UConn Women’s basketball team. For the Gators, this win marks their
7th National Championship, making the Women’s tennis team the most prolific team in Florida Gators history! The closets to the Gators are the Men’s golf and the Women’s gymnastics teams with four championships to their credit. Congratulations.
The NCAA Championships began at regional sites across America as each of the top 16 seeded teams would host the first and second rounds. The Sweet 16, through the Finals, would be held on the campus of the University of Georgia. And in case you are new to College tennis, these are the teams that hosted Regional matches:
Men’s Seeded Teams:
- Wake Forest
- Ohio State
- Oklahoma State
- Texas A&M
Women’s Seeded Teams
- Ohio State
- Texas Tech
- Georgia Tech
- Oklahoma State
- South Carolina
A couple of things jump out at me when I look at this list:
- Do any of these teams look familiar? They should. Many of the biggest Universities in America have not only football and basketball programs, but tennis teams, too!
- Florida isn’t the only place where they play tennis.
- Texas and Oklahoma seem to be the hottest tennis states.
- Lesser known “football” schools like Vanderbilt and Pepperdine have stellar tennis programs.
What is Your College Team Doing?
Watching the NCAA Championship play out over the course of 2 weeks was enjoyable, for me, primarily because of the Season that preceded it. From late January right up to the start of the Championship, players are growing together and developing into a Team. We see this in their interaction on Game Day and on their Instagram posts and Twitter timeline. We watch them struggle to overcome the opposition. We see them encourage each other after a loss. We see them celebrate together after a win. We see them playing practical jokes on each other, clowning in the gym, and being recognized by the student body at basketball games.
And then comes the NCAA National Championship.
A season of struggle all comes down to one, meaningful, tournament. Noticeably different than their professional counterparts, College tennis only has one Major tournament. There are numerous invitationals during the course of the school year, but they are merely exhibitions designed to prepare teams for the NCAA Championship. In fact, there’s an individual tournament for both singles and doubles following the NCAA Championships, but by then the crowds have gone home, moving on to the College World Series, or something.
Tennis Night in America
Here’s the point: tennis as a Team Sport is infinitely more enjoyable than tournaments. When cities like Charlottesville (Virginia) and Nashville (Vanderbilt) and Malibu (Pepperdine) have a team to gather around, the sport takes root in that territory. When the Oklahoma State Men’s tennis team makes the news it brings attention to tennis in Stillwater. When the Texas Tech Women’s tennis team visits the local Children’s Hospital in Lubbock the Red Raiders become a greater part of the Community. When the citizens have a tennis product they can be proud of they begin to display their tennis proudly. Much like the fans of the Ohio State Buckeyes football team (me) everyone knows where we belong. We are Buckeyes. We say it loud. We say it proud. And if you’ve got a problem with that, we can take it outside!
But seriously, Team Sports inspire a passion not found in individual sports. Which is why professional tennis SHOULD BE a team sport like it is in College. Just imagine what Sundays in the spring would be look like if it was Tennis Night in America; a day for the Community to embrace the local sports franchise, gather at the sports stadium, wear matching jerseys and t-shirts, and cheer in unison for their Home Town team. And when the Championships come around, tickets go on sale for $1,000! Can you see it?
We don’t have it yet, but I’ll keep dreaming it until we do. In the meantime, you can help me by supporting your local University; attend their matches, buy a hat and t-shirt, take pictures with the team and post them on Facebook. Make College tennis a part of your Community and let’s see how far we can take this thing!
Ohio State Buckeyes, Virginia Cavaliers, Vanderbilt Commodores, and the Florida Gators. What do these Universities all have in common? We are all familiar with the universities who have top-shelf programs in football, and basketball (Ohio State and Florida), but these schools also have world-class talent in tennis. Believe it or not, the World comes to America to find the best facilities,
the best training, and the best competition. It starts at the tennis academies like IMG and Saddlebrook and it continues on our College campuses. Players from countries like Brazil, Columbia, England, and Germany continue their education while continuing their playing careers right here in the United States. And seeing some of the world’s best tennis players in action, in person, is so much better than watching them on TV. Am I right!?!
Before we get into HOW to watch a College tennis match I though I would give a little background as to WHY watching College tennis is such a tremendous value, how is it different than what people may be watching on television, and why the Team is the premier vehicle for bringing tennis into the mainstream.
First, watching a Collegiate tennis match, while fundamentally similar to the professional game,
is a very different experience because the rules are more relaxed allowing the fans to become more involved the matches. And I say “match-es” because there can be up to six being played at the same time and they all count towards the team’s final score. Unlike professional tennis where it’s every man for himself, College tennis is a Team Sport, a group effort, where every player contributes to the outcome. Some people (me) prefer it this way.
For example, a College tennis match consists of two rounds; Round 1: three doubles matches followed by (Round 2) six singles matches. In some cases, all three doubles are counted as one, best-of-three set match, giving the team one point, the Doubles point, while in other situations all three doubles matches count as a point apiece (three total points). The singles always count as one point each, so the winner of the match must win four out of seven (best two-of-three doubles) or best five out of nine (three doubles points).
This best-of-seven format lends itself to all kinds of dramatic situations: after all of the doubles have been played, and 5 of the singles matches have wrapped up, if the match is tied at three points apiece, that means the last court to finish will be the deciding point, much like a Game 7 in the World Series or NBA Finals. And the last match to finish can be a different player each week: this week Court 2 went to three sets, but last week it was Court 6. So depending on how the coaches determined the lineup, and how evenly matched the players are, any player can be the hero (or the goat) for that day. It gives me goose bumps! I mean, is there anything more exciting than a Game 7?!?
But the #1 reason to watch a College tennis match (in my opinion) is because the players represent not only themselves, but the University. More significant than a bunch of random athletes, from a bunch of random countries, coming together to showcase their talents, competing for a trophy that represents nothing more than how good they are; College tennis teams play for their community. They play for their friends and classmates, the faculty, alumni, those who live in the surrounding area, and even those who have moved away but are still loyal to the university.
As a former Ohio State student living in Florida, I am a part of the larger Buckeye community… and we are everywhere! It’s always good to see someone wearing an Ohio State t-shirt or hat, or someone with an Ohio State license plate on their car, or flying an Ohio State flag outside their house. It reminds me of where I came from. It says to me that no matter how far I go I’m never far from home. So when I check the box scores and see an Ohio State football / tennis / basketball / baseball / gymnastics / wrestling victory, it lifts my spirits. Seeing Ohio State tennis at #3 on the Men’s side and #4 on the Women’s (as of 2/15/17) makes me proud to be a Buckeye, because whether they know it or not, they’re playing not only for themselves, but for me, too.
Now that we know WHY College tennis is so important, we can talk about HOW to watch a match. But we’ll save that for next time.
Who is your favorite University tennis team? I would love to hear from you. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our Facebook page to be a part of the conversation. Then go to your team’s website to find their schedule and see when they’re playing. Most tennis matches are admission-free so they’re easy to afford. Cheer for your favorite team and have a good time. Tennis is always better in person.
The final game of the Regular Season for the Miami Hurricanes Mens tennis team was, on paper, a very tall order for the Hurricanes to fill. Going up against the #4-ranked Virginia Cavaliers is always a date you circle on the calendar. But the ‘Canes would not be able to turn around their recent losing streak for this match, losing by a score of 5-2. There were, however, 2 bright spots in Sunday’s match: in the final home game of his college career, Wilfredo Gonzalez would win his singles match in dominating fashion by a score of 6-2, 6-2. “On my Senior Day I wanted to play smarter and more focused than in any other match,” said Gonzalez. “I just wanted to get out of here with good momentum and good feelings and I wanted people to see how good I can be.”
Also scoring a victory for the ‘Canes, freshman Christian Langmo would defeat the #4-ranked singles player Ryan Shane. After dropping the first set, Langmo would recover in the next two to take the match 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. “It feels really good to play my best tennis at the end of the season,” said Langmo. “Virginia is one of the deepest teams in the country and it feels really good.”
Also being recognized on Senior Day was Henrique Tsukamoto.
The Hurricanes now travel to to North Carolina for the ACC Tournament seeded #12 and will face the #5 seed, Duke, on Thursday, April 23.