Williams Club Tennis fosters camaraderie, enthusiasm

On a warm day, make your way to the Hunt Tennis Center – just at the intersection of Stetson Road and Lynde Lane – and you are likely to find members of Williams Club Tennis (WCT) practicing on its cobalt-colored courts.

For a sport with such a rich history, tennis has only recently come on the club sports scene at the College. The organization began last fall with relatively modest intentions.

“It just started off as a few guys just having fun playing together,” WCT President Alex Wartels ’19 said.

In the brief time it has been active, WCT has evolved into a competitive and close-knit cohort of peers, each with a simple goal: to play tennis.

WCT was founded last year by Wartels, Nils Horn ’19 and Reed Jenkins ’19. Establishing the program, which is coed, was difficult because it had been decades since the College had last approved an intercollegiate club sport.

“There were a lot of hoops we had to jump through, especially since it was a sport that had a corresponding varsity team,” Wartels said. “There was some administrative confusion, and it was definitely a long process.”

Wartels was quick to point out the sense of camaraderie among club members.

“There’s a collegial nature,” he said. “Everyone gets along and hangs out, and we all work hard to get better.”

In fact, the very structure of the program was designed to foster teamwork and fraternity.

When competing in tournaments sanctioned by the United States Tennis Association (USTA), WCT follows a “World Team Tennis” coed format. Each tournament has five matches – one each for men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles. Final scores and tournament outcomes are not dependent on individual performance but rather on the accumulation of results from each match and the team as a whole.

However, there is also a healthy and spirited dose of intrateam competition involved. Due to the limited roster space for travel teams in USTA-sanctioned tournaments, WCT uses a “ladder system,” modeled after the varsity squash teams’ roster-selection process, to help determine competition participants.

Essentially, teammates partake in “challenge matches” against one another in practice and are seeded according to their performances leading up to the week of the tournament.

“Challenge matches can get intense,” Wartels said, “but in the end, we’re all just trying to get better.”

Using these results, the men’s and women’s captains, Scott Fanuzzi ’17 and Hannah Tager ’20, make final roster decisions.

While only in its first season, WCT has performed impressively, finishing among the top four teams in the Gold Bracket at the USTA Tennis on Campus New England Championship and just missing a berth to the 2017 National Championship.

“We celebrated at a hole-in-the-wall pizzeria called Pinocchio’s,” Wartels recalled.

Outside of UTSA tournament play, WCT also provides competitive opportunities in the form of head-to-head tournaments with other schools in the New England area. Wartels said these opportunities are meant to ensure that each player has chances to play and to learn.

Professor Magnus Bernhardsson, the team’s faculty advisor, echoed Wartels’s sentiments about the wide array of opportunities that WCT provides.

“Athletic participation is not only limited to varsity athletes,” he said. “There are numerous outlets for students here to take advantage of. It’s something I see the potential in and have had positive experiences with.”

Fanuzzi highlighted the team’s skill and enthusiasm.

“I’m disappointed I won’t be here to see the club mature,” he said, “but WCT is in great hands.

“We have a really talented, passionate squad, and we have the potential to be competitive on the national level in the future. I’m excited to watch the club develop its own identity and place in the Williams community.”