On Thursday, March 12, 2020, my team and I were in Hilton Head, South Carolina on our annual spring break trip where we play tennis matches against colleges from all across the country. This trip had been a tough one for us collectively; we were competing against some really strong teams, which meant our record was not where we would have liked it to be. This day, we were going into our fourth match of the trip, and we all wanted to play the best matches we could. I am happy to say that both teams came together, and we won our matches against Nazareth 9-0 and 7-2.
Little did we know this was to be our last match of the season.
The majority of us on both the men’s and women’s teams had finished our matches when we heard the news that the remainder of our season had been cancelled due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the United States. We were also told later that evening that the remainder of our spring break trip was cancelled, and we would be returning back to Mount Union the following day. We were shocked, mad, upset and heartbroken that our season had been abruptly cut short. However, for me and four other members of our teams, this meant that we had played the last match of our collegiate careers without even knowing it.
Although my graduation year is not technically until 2021, I have myself set to graduate a semester earlier than my class in December of 2020. Since the main tennis season is in the spring semester, this means that this was my last season as a member of the team. Therefore, I wanted to write this article as a way to look back on the sport that has given me so much over the course of my life.
I first picked up a tennis racket when I was 15 years old, which was right before my freshman year of high school. I discovered tennis through a summer program offered at my local park. As soon as I started playing, I knew that I had found my lifetime sport. I was obsessed with the idea that I was not only a part of a team, but also solely responsible for the outcome of my performance. It was just me, the ball, the court and nothing else. I bought a racket and played almost every single day leading up to my freshman season.
We had a successful season as a team; however, this would be the only year that I would play tennis in high school. My school was very small—my graduating class was 48 students—therefore, it was hard to keep a team. So, I left my high school team and started to play in different leagues at various tennis clubs in Northeast Ohio. I was then introduced through my old high school coach to Green Tennis Club (GTC). This would become the place where I would spend a lot of my time over the next couple of years. It is about a 45-minute drive from my house, but it's a drive that I do not mind making. I still play there to this day, and I will continue to for as long as I can.
I played at GTC year-round through my last three years of high school as a part of various travel teams, drills and competitions. I worked extremely hard and was eventually recruited to play at the University of Mount Union, which I never thought would have been possible for how late I had started the sport. I am forever thankful that the program took a chance on me.
The Mount Union tennis program has made me experience every emotion in the book, but I would not trade it for the world. Being a part of this team made me grow so much as a person, and I truly believe that I would not be who I am today without it. It gave me an opportunity to continue playing the sport I adore in a competitive setting, as well as giving me experiences that I will never forget.
However, the biggest thing I owe to tennis is it introducing me to some of the greatest people that I will ever have the pleasure of knowing. I want to take some time here to thank as many of them as I can.
To my Green Tennis Club family: I adore all of you. Coming in not knowing what to expect or where my tennis career was even going to go, you all accepted me with open arms. You made me feel loved and important for not only just my tennis game, but for who I am as a person. I could not imagine my life without any of you in it. Thank you so much.
To my Tennis Raiders: You all know how I feel about you, because I’ve told you so many times. You are my extended family. From our long van trips to Hilton Head to Cincinatti and everything in between, you gave me memories that I will never forget. You took me as I am and gave me something that I will never be able to replicate. You all truly made my college experience that much more special, and I’m so blessed to have gone through it with such an awesome group of people.
I also want to thank my family. You all have supported me since day one. When I picked up a sport so late and told you that I wanted to play in college, you did nothing but encourage me. From taking me to matches to watching me from the sidelines, every single one of you were always here for me, and I am forever thankful that you were all a part of this journey with me.
Tennis itself has always been more than just a sport to me: it is my livelihood. It is something that I always have to fall back on when I have nothing else. When life would hit me at its hardest, I would always find myself at a tennis court. It is my escape, my peace and my everything. This sport gave me so much of the life I have currently, and quite honestly, I’m not sure I would be here today without it.
Lastly, I would like to send my sadness and hurt to all of the other sports teams who have had their seasons cut short, especially to the seniors of their respective teams. Even though this situation is heartbreaking and confusing, please find solace in the fact that no matter what, you gave your sport everything you had and left everything you could on the playing-ground. No one is short of proud of everything you gave to your programs, and we thank you all for your dedication over the years.
That being said, COVID-19 is a serious pandemic that is overtaking our country, as well as the world. Please do whatever you can to educate yourself about this situation and learn measures on how to keep each other safe through this difficult time. Be thankful for your loved ones and everyone you hold close. And know that we are all a team. If we stick together, we can get through anything.
Tennis, I love you to death and would be nothing without you. Thank you for the memories and everything else you have blessed me with. As I say with everything, this is not a goodbye, but more of a see you soon.