Every April, the country’s best club tennis teams flock to the USTA Tennis On Campus National Championship. Since the first National Championship in 2000, Penn has qualified for the Big Dance every year.
Last season, the team made the trek out west to the desert of Surprise, Az., and finished 42nd overall. This year the event was held in Cary, N.C., so the team decided to drive instead. With captains and seniors seated comfortably up front and the freshmen — including us — squeezed tightly in the back rows of the two rented minivans, the team set out on its seven hour journey with 14 people in tow.
The next three days were filled with fantastic weather, tennis and laughs, and we thought we would share some of the most memorable moments from our southern excursion to the Club Tennis National Championship.
3:30 p.m.: Two main observations as the car is loaded. First, every person in this car has overpacked. Second, we — the freshmen — are the ones who will suffer the most from this.
9:00 p.m.: Quick stop at Dairy Queen, because every top athlete eats a DQ M&M Blizzard less than 12 hours before they are scheduled to compete.
12:30 a.m.: We arrive at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Cary. It’s decked out in tournament logos and advertisements, and is eerily quiet considering there are over 600 college students inside (this certainly wouldn’t last).
7:45 a.m.: After waking up early, we arrive at the tennis courts to find they are soaking wet. Some people immediately pull out their computers to do homework. Others decide to blare, “I’m in love with the CoCo” on speakers for everyone to enjoy ...
9 a.m.: As Northeastern arrives and begins warming up, the squad’s best player puts on a GoPro. “No Flex Zone” blasts from our speakers. So began the battle for most obnoxious team.
12 p.m.: After close singles and doubles matches, we went into the mixed doubles tied. At a critical point in this final match, Northeastern made a terrible line call. Our bench jumps up in rage. Of course, karma doesn’t prevail and Northeastern wins by a single point.
6:24 p.m.: After beating UCF, freshman Anna Dyer (one of our esteemed authors), worried about getting struck by lightning, is too scared to walk to the car after the matches get rained out for the day (Granted, there were a lot of trees.) (No, there were not.)
12:30 p.m.: After beating Indiana and solidifying a spot in the silver bracket, a battle of Ivy League schools ensues as we take on Cornell, the Tennis On Campus Team of the Year ... whatever that means.
2:38 p.m.: A four-foot-long snake has taken over the water coolers. Everyone panics. Captain and “fearless leader” Vivek Nimgaonkar turns out to not be so fearless in the face of danger and promptly runs away. A UCF player attempts to pick it up, claiming, “I don’t think it’s poisonous!”
8:00 p.m.: After falling to Cornell despite having match points, a James Madison player tells our team, “Hey, at least you’re smarter!”
9:30 p.m.: As we take on rival Penn State, some players from other schools seem confused as to why we are practicing so late at night. #NotPennState
11:00 p.m.: Our match against Harvard begins. Quickly, everyone stops paying attention to the tennis as one Harvard player explains his revolutionary startup idea: “Indisputaball,” a ball that secretes gel when it hits the court, leaving a mark for a few seconds to ensure a fair match. We quickly realize we can no longer use the “at least we’re smarter” excuse.
12:30 a.m.: Once the match ends, junior Eric Shiuey from Penny Loafers serenades Anna as part of her sorority big-little week. Despite his amazing voice, freshman Connie Wang decides she has had enough and throws a minor temper tantrum, running to the car without any of her belongings.
1 a.m.: To continue our healthy late-night eating habits, the team stops at a Wendy’s drive-thru. While eating her cheeseburger, Anna’s left hand stops functioning. While we probably should have been more concerned that she was unable to open a water bottle with it, most team members were preoccupied eating the rest of her french fries.
12:30 p.m.: After finishing our final match of the tournament, Eric Shiuey, Evan Selzer and Andrei Tuluc get yelled atfor not wearing shirts. (Huge disappointment for the ladies).
5:45 p.m.: We head back to the courts to watch the final match between California and Minnesota. The crowd is packed and surprisingly rowdy, possibly due to the consumption of a few adult beverages prior to the match. Cal pulls away and wins their third straight national title.
9 p.m.: Parties begin in various rooms throughout the hotel. They get increasingly crazy, giving us a glimpse into what it’s like to attend a state school. #NotPennState
10:18 pm: Managers begin pacing the halls to quiet the various parties that have gotten out of hand. They do not succeed.
2:30 a.m.: Some of us get locked out of our rooms and have to double up in the small beds. Team bonding at its finest.
6:00 a.m.: We wake up to embark on our seven-and-a-half hour car drive back to Philly.
All in all, we finished 28th in the nation, but even more importantly, we had a great time. Thanks to our team and the entire club tennis community for an unforgettable weekend.
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