A Tennis Match That’s Also a College Program’s Farewell

On an overcast day, earlier than a few dozen individuals on the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, a workforce of gamers carrying gentle blue uniforms battles a workforce in darkish blue throughout six courts.

This is the place a school tennis workforce has the best second in its historical past. And the place it goes to die.

For the primary time, the lads’s workforce from St. Francis of Brooklyn was taking part in within the NCAA event. But after the first-round match was over on Friday, and St. Francis had fallen, 4-0, to Columbia, this system was no extra. St. Francis is dropping all of his sports activities on the finish of the college yr for budgetary causes.

Chad Davis performed at St. Francis and has been the lads’s tennis coach for 19 years. “Being an alum of the faculty, being there for thus lengthy and seeing this system develop yr after yr and battle after battle, it is positively a bitter capsule to swallow,” he mentioned.

Making the event appeared unlikely after St. Francis received off to a 1-10 begin this season, together with a loss in his first convention sport. “It was positively tough to start with; We weren’t clicking,” Davis mentioned.

Then in March got here the information that the faculty’s athletic packages had been being shut down. The college cited “elevated working bills, flattening income streams, and plateauing enrollment.”

“It was very shocking,” mentioned one of many gamers, Luis Foix Sotos, from Jávea, Spain. “When I noticed the athletic director, her voice was very unhappy. I mentioned, ‘Something is occurring right here.’ When she advised the information, some individuals had been crying. It was a very unhappy second.”

Davis mentioned, “Just to listen to it, it was positively a intestine punch.” Yet the information, the coach mentioned, oddly appeared to rally the workforce. “The guys type of got here collectively, and we strung collectively some good wins.”

The workforce gained seven of its final eight video games, together with all of its remaining convention video games. But it wanted to win the Northeast Conference event to qualify for the NCAA event. In the ultimate, it met Fairleigh Dickinson, which had eradicated it the earlier two years.

Foix Sotos was the participant who gained the clinching match in a 4-2 victory. “It was the very best feeling ever,” he mentioned. “It was one of many happiest moments of my life. For me, it was epic; it was like a film that resulted in the easiest way attainable.”

In the NCAA event in opposition to Columbia, St. Francis was a large underdog; With a 19-3 document, Columbia had achieved the very best rating in its historical past, at No. 13 nationally. The match befell in entrance of largely family and friends, a far cry from when the Billie Jean King Center is overstuffed with followers paying $24 for hen tenders on the US Open.

St. Francis was hampered additional by being short-handed, partially as a result of some gamers had been unable to cancel journey plans they’d made when a journey to the event appeared unlikely. Foix Sotos, for instance, performed fourth singles, moderately than his standard sixth. And Davis additionally needed to miss the match with a well being downside.

Columbia made fast work of the opening doubles matches, with out dropping a set, and the singles matches had been no nearer. When Columbia gained its clinching third singles match, the others had been halted, and St. Francis’ remaining season was achieved.

St. Francis was one of many smallest faculties with Division I athletics.

The males’s basketball workforce was considered one of simply 4 unique members of Division I by no means to make the NCAA event. But the lads’s water polo workforce made a number of Final Four journeys, most not too long ago in 2013, and town skyline backdrop to its soccer video games in Brooklyn Bridge Park recurrently made visiting gamers clamor for selfies.

The males’s and ladies’s monitor groups are the final ones nonetheless going, however in a few weeks their remaining seasons, too, shall be over.

St. Francis has mentioned he’ll honor the athletic scholarships of the gamers with eligibility remaining. “Some of the older gamers are planning to remain in New York,” mentioned Foix Sotos, whose personal eligibility is exhausted. “They have a life right here, they usually do not need to switch for just one yr. But for the freshmen and the sophomores, all of them need to switch; they’re searching for faculties.”

Athletic officers mentioned they had been getting resumes collectively. Does Davis have any plans after 20 years on the college? “At the second, no I don’t.”

When the match was over on Friday, the workforce gathered in a circle by one of many nets, linked arms, and shared a non-public second.

“We had been simply saying thanks,” Foix Sotos mentioned.

“My final school match,” he mentioned of the sudden go to to the event. “Today was like a reward for me.”

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