Club tennis to make national appearance

The Sam Houston State University Club Tennis team will compete at the United States Tennis On Campus national tournament this week in Cary, North Carolina.

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 [2004].”

SHSU Club Tennis received the wildcard bid into the national tournament for their successful efforts throughout the competitive season, according to Gabbard.

“The national tournament is run by the United States Tennis Association Tennis On Campus nation committee and the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association,” Gabbard said. “There [are] 64 teams. What they do is divide up the number of bids to the various USTA sections across the state [and] across the nation. USTA Texas has six bids”

Gabbard said SHSU Club Tennis was selected not by record but merit.

“What they did is they took the top four in the gold bracket, which was Texas A&M University, University of Texas, Baylor University and Texas Christian University,” Gabbard said. “They take club of the year – that does the outstanding community service for the year, which this year Lamar got it – and they do one wildcard drawing. We received the wildcard.”

Although this is not the team’s first national appearance, Gabbard said the competition does not get any easier.

“There’s a lot of great teams,” Gabbard said. “Twelve of the 16 teams are coming back that played in the gold bracket last year. A lot of new teams are coming in but a lot of recurring teams too.”

The team had notable wins this year, including defeating TAMU and Texas State University. Gabbard noted that even though the team has had a prosperous year, they must focus on the competition that lies ahead.

“I know our biggest struggle this year so far is UT,” Gabbard said. “We have never been able to get UT’s top team. We run into them so much and they always seem to have our card. If we end up running into UT I think they will be our biggest opponent.”

In the team’s first national match, they will face the defending national champions University of California-Berkley. Gabbard said his faith in his team is strong, but the team members should also remember to enjoy the opportunity that could ultimately lead to a national championship.

“We need to make sure we’re having fun,” Gabbard said. “Looking at our last national appearance in 2011, out of the seven matches we played we only won one match, so our goal this year is to at least win three to four matches…Everyone is going to have to be on top of their game, all the cards will have to fall into place.”

The 2015 USTA Tennis on Campus National Championship will bring together 64 teams all competing for one goal of a national championship. The teams will begin competing at Cary Tennis Park on April 9 at 8 a.m.

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