By Mike Uhle
The UMW Club Tennis team competed in the USTA National Campus Championships for the first time in the club’s two year existence last week in Cary, NC.
The team, consisting of individuals selected for competition in men and women’s singles, doubles and a mixed doubles match, included seniors Tommy Openchowski and Matt Tupper, juniors Kenny Barnes and Mike Uhle, sophomores Shreya Desai and Kristine Alger, and freshmen Teddy Harvey, Sarah Shortridge, Rachel Covington, and Danielle Velardi.
The team was led by the doubles pairings of Openchowski and Uhle and Desai and Alger, who amassed records of 6-1 and 4-1 respectively against powerhouse Division I schools who in some cases had eight times the enrollment of UMW.
Lying in the shadow of extremely successful varsity teams, the team had trouble finding players who were willing to dedicate their time and effort to a club. Funding was also an issue for the team this year, as they are one of the least funded athletic clubs at the school.
Through the support of parents and individuals, the team traveled to Charlottesville in the winter and competed in Sectionals, finishing sixth in the Mid-Atlantic against top ten schools such as UVA, Georgetown and Virginia Tech. This proved to be a vital piece in the push to obtain a bid to Nationals.
The team scored victories against VCU and Marquette University at Nationals, enough to move them to 29th in the nation, the highest in the history of the club, which started two years ago ranked 300th.
The ranking also makes UMW the only Division III School in the top 30, confirming them as the top Division III Club Tennis Team in the nation.
The experience at end of the season was a special one for both seniors Openchowski and Tupper, who finished their club tennis careers with victories over Marquette.
The team now looks to the future, and the opportunity to continue their ascension in the rankings. They are hoping for players who may not have known about the team’s talent to step up and fill the rolls of the vacating seniors. That, paired with a potential for increased funding, could lead to more success and another trip to Nationals, only next year a plane trip to Phoenix, Arizona.
By Mike Uhle