When you think of an engineer, you usually picture a diligent student who does nothing but study night and day. However, this isn’t the case with the Michigan club tennis team, which has a number of engineering students on the squad.
“Smart people can play sports, too,” said senior Roy Braid of his fellow teammates.
The team has had a great year, so great that it is still going. The team sent two squads to compete in the 2006 USTA Club Tennis Regional Tournament in Madison.
Each team consisted of four women and four men, who competed in five matches (men’s and women’s single, a men’s and women’s double and one mixed).
Braid was a member of the “B” team with fellow senior Matt McKeown, while the “A” team consisted of seniors Julie van Helden, who is also the president of the club, Dan Cohen, Mike “Moom” Oom and Dave Scheltema.
The seniors have an important leadership role. They realize that without the underclassmen they would not have been as successful this year.
“Our underclassmen bring new life to the team,” van Helden said. “Each year, we recruit better and better players who wish to be more involved than those before them. We really can’t ask for a better scenario than that.”
The two squads finished first and second in the tournament to advance to nationals in Austin, Texas on April 21 and 22. Michigan defeated some of its biggest rivals, including Miami (Ohio), Ohio and Wisconsin. The prize was $2,500, which will help cover team expenses for nationals.
The team is not unfamiliar with nationals. It finished third in 2003 and ninth last year. This is a great start for a new program that is almost six years old and still developing.
Michigan club tennis is open to anyone who wants to try out, but there is a limited number of spots. This year, the team had 18 women and 18 men try out.
“The more people we get the better,” Braid said. “Because that is how the team improves.”
The focus of the program is not necessarily to win, but to enjoy the camaraderie of the team and the thrill of the sport.
“Club sports give people an outlet to bond with other students,” Braid said. “It is an important outlet for stress because you know you can get away from the academics, and it also makes people healthier.”
The team doesn’t only develop chemistry through practice and matches. It also goes on social outings together and forms intramural teams.
“The team’s chemistry is very unique,” van Helden said. “We are competitive and push each other at every practice, but we are also each other’s biggest fans when it comes to matches. It really works nicely in developing a high-performance yet friendly team.”
As the team heads to the nationals, it plans to use its teamwork to its advantage, and gain an extra edge in the competition.