By Taryn Taylor
On a typical, swelteringly hot Wednesday afternoon, most students are getting out of class and heading to their next one. In the meantime, the UT Tennis Club is training for their next match. Two members, sophomore Christian Maldonado and senior Scotty Hilliard, the club president, show up early to get a few matches in before practice even begins.
The UT Tennis Club is a co-ed organization that invites all skill ranges to play tennis; whether you are a beginner or the next Roger Federer.
UT is a part of the Florida Campus Series in the United States Tennis Association (USTA), along with University of Florida, Florida State University, University of South Florida, University of Central Florida, University of Miami and Florida Gulf Coast University. Each school hosts a tournament throughout the season and UT will get its turn to host with its “Spartan Challenge” on Nov. 7.
The club team competed in their first tournament of the year, The Gator Bowl Tournament in Gainesville, Fla. on Sept. 19. The tournament was played in “world team format”, meaning that men’s singles played, women’s singles played next, men’s and women’s doubles followed, and mixed doubles concluded the event. Though tennis is typically considered an “individual game” Maldonado found himself leaning on his teammates throughout the tournament.
“It was my first tournament. It was a different type of atmosphere compared to high school,” he said. “You have to play for your team, not yourself.”
Depending on how many people are on the school team, to play in the tournament you are split into smaller teams according to skill level. UT-A is competitive and UT-B is recreational. To be a part of UT-A you have to be invited by the president for a private tryout. If you are already on the team, he will watch you during practice, and if he feels you can succeed on UT-A, he will ask you to be apart of it. UT-B is very relaxed, and anyone interested in tennis can join.
During the tournament,10 schools played against each other on 32 teams. On Saturday, they played six matches against the other schools and three individual matches. UT came up short during the bracket rounds Sunday, but placed into the silver, second place bracket.
“We performed well,” Hilliard said “Sometimes we barely make it to the bronze bracket.”
Most of the teams that competed last year were also in attendance over the weekend, so the players were happy to compete against them again.
“The teams were the same as last year, so it was good to see familiar faces,” Hilliard said.
UF came in first with 600 points, followed by FSU with 260 points. UT tied with Stetson University and the University of North Florida with 50 points. Points are based off of rounds and bonus points. Round points are given for winning rounds, and bonus points are given in a winning singles round of highly ranked players.
As team captain, Hilliard recognizes some of the more promising members on the team such as graduate student Gavin Smith, junior Fergus Foster and freshman Jillian Garfunkel.
“Gavin is really good and is a key part of our team, Fergus has a killer serve and [is a] great corner hitter, and Jillian is coming to the team after a very accomplished high school career,” Hilliard said.
Team practices are held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6 p.m. The next tournament is the Battle in the Capital on Oct. 3 in Tallahassee against FSU and Florida A&M University.