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

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

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

For the primary time, the boys’s staff 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 varsity 12 months for budgetary causes.

Chad Davis performed at St. Francis and has been the boys’s tennis coach for 19 years. “Being an alum of the school, being there for therefore lengthy and seeing this system develop 12 months after 12 months and battle after battle, it is positively a bitter tablet to swallow,” he mentioned.

Making the event appeared unlikely after St. Francis bought off to a 1-10 begin this season, together with a loss in his first convention recreation. “It was positively troublesome at first; we weren’t clicking,” Davis mentioned.

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

“It was very stunning,” 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 mentioned the information, some folks 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 staff. “The guys type of got here collectively, and we strung collectively some good wins.”

The staff 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 led to the easiest way potential.”

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

St. Francis was hampered additional by being short-handed, partly as a result of some gamers had been unable to cancel journey plans that they had made when a journey to the event appeared unlikely. Foix Sotos, for instance, performed fourth singles, quite than his traditional 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’ closing season was performed.

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

The males’s basketball staff was one in every of simply 4 unique members of Division I by no means to make the NCAA event. But the boys’s water polo staff made a number of Final Four journeys, most not too long ago in 2013, and the 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 observe groups are the final ones nonetheless going, however in a few weeks their closing 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, and so they do not need to switch for just one 12 months. But for the freshmen and the sophomores, all of them need to switch; they’re in search of faculties.”

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

When the match was over on Friday, the staff gathered in a circle by one of many nets, linked arms, and shared a personal 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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