For the second time in four years, Northeastern University is the New England Tennis On Campus (TOC) Club of the Year. Since its inception in 2005, the Northeastern squad has demonstrated all the values of the consummate TOC team. They have shown team spirit and program dedication, given back to the community in a variety of unique ways and maintain a fighting spirit no matter the situation.
“Northeastern’s growth in participation and commitment to community service set them apart as our Club of the Year. Their team’s volunteer work with Volley Against Violence and organization of the Midnight Madness fundraiser tournament are a model for other clubs in New England,” said Sarah Rice, USTA New England Manager, Community Development.
As a result of this award, Northeastern has been given New England’s seventh bid to Nationals, joining top finishers from New England Championships in October, Dartmouth College, Yale University, Brown University, Harvard University, MIT and Wesleyan University. This will be Northeastern’s seventh consecutive trip to Nationals.
In 2005, Northeastern launched its program with 20 members. Now, 14 years and three New England Championships later, 60 men and women make up one of the most spirited clubs on campus and in New England.
“Our team is very competitive with players who all love tennis, but what sets us apart is how close everyone on the team is,” said fifth-year Co-captain, Hayden Miller. “Our team is a place where people with like-minded interests can meet and make lifelong friends through the sport of tennis. To us, we feel that it is important to foster that kind of mindset in the young people in our community by being good role models.”
Every year as part of the club’s philanthropic efforts, Northeastern works directly with Boston-based charities and tennis organizations. Their flagship fundraising event, Midnight Madness, is a tournament that pits local TOC teams against one another to raise money for two organizations near and dear to the team: The Jester & Pharley Phund and Volley Against Violence (VAV). The tournament continues to grow year after year, and this year was far and away the most successful to date, featuring eight teams, more than 200 players and $2,000 raised.
“It seems like every year the event gets better, and a lot of that is due to the cooperation and passion of other teams. A big chunk of the money raised comes from their players, and we were ecstatic to see so many new people donating even just $25 to our cause. Without the other teams and their leaders, it would have been just another charity tournament,” said Co-captain and fourth-year student, Julia Hostetter.
For the past five years, Northeastern has supported the VAV program. The Nationally-recognized program, run by nearby Sportsmen’s Tennis & Enrichment Center and the Boston Police Tennis Program, is designed to decrease violence among Boston area youth by providing them with positive experiences, skill building and connections to adult role models, including Boston Police Officers.
In years’ past, Northeastern had sent small groups to volunteer with the program on a weekly basis. This year however, in hopes of establishing a personal connection to VAV, all 60 members were required to attend the program.
“The connections we make with the kids, Sportsmen’s and Boston Police members is what makes us continue to foster and expand that relationship. The joy we feel seeing these kids have fun through tennis and open talks about life really make the two hours of our time worth it 10 times over,” Hostetter said. “VAV’s message lines up with our fundamental beliefs to help people who might not have the resources to do so through the game of tennis. At the end of the day, I feel like both relationships mutually benefit through volunteering.”
Northeastern TOC, which for years hovered around 50 members, climbed to a record 60 in the fall of 2018. Brand new on-campus courts at the Carter Field Playground were built, sparking even greater interest and bringing 170 students to try out for the team. Currently, the team features players from more 15 states and 10 different countries.
With the creation of the courts, Northeastern was able to host a variety of tournaments, featuring TOC teams and otherwise. The inaugural tournament was run in conjunction with USTA New England’s Jack’s Abby Social League and featured both league and TOC players.
Throughout the fall and early spring semester, Northeastern has used its tournament play and practice time efficiently, preparing like never before for its upcoming trip to Nationals. Northeastern finished eighth at October’s New England Championships, barely missing clinching an automatic bid.
“Personally, I was devastated and know that many of the other members on our team felt the same way. Over the course of the tournament, it felt like the ball would never bounce our way, but I’m really proud of our team for not being sore losers out there,” “We also realize how much better the New England region has gotten over the years. There truly is not one easy match the whole tournament, and teams will capitalize when you aren’t playing your best.”
This year was the first time over the seven-year run that Northeastern failed to qualify for Nationals at the New England Championships, and with that comes a slightly different collective mindset heading into this year’s event.
“We’ve been blessed with this opportunity to redeem ourselves, and that has caused our team to kick it up a notch at practice. I think I speak for a lot of us when I say there is nothing else we want more as a team than to prove we belong and crushing it on the big stage in Arizona,” Miller said. “For some of us, myself included, it’s our last Nationals, and we are motivated to make it one to remember.”
Tennis On Campus Nationals will take place at the Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex from April 10-13.
To learn more about Tennis On Campus Nationals, click here.
USTA.com | James Maimonis, Manager, Media & Communications | February 21, 2019