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 crew of gamers carrying gentle blue uniforms battles a crew in darkish blue throughout six courts.

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

For the primary time, the lads’s crew from St. Francis of Brooklyn was enjoying within the NCAA match. 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 school, being there for thus lengthy and seeing this system develop yr after yr and battle after battle, it is undoubtedly a bitter tablet to swallow,” he stated.

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

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

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

The crew 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 match to qualify for the NCAA match. 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 most effective feeling ever,” he stated. “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 match towards Columbia, St. Francis was a massive underdog; With a 19-3 document, Columbia had achieved the best rating in its historical past, at No. 13 nationally. The match occurred in entrance of principally 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 that they had made when a journey to the match appeared unlikely. Foix Sotos, for instance, performed fourth singles, somewhat than his typical 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’ ultimate season was completed.

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

The males’s basketball crew was one in all simply 4 authentic members of Division I by no means to make the NCAA match. But the lads’s water polo crew made a number of Final Four journeys, most lately in 2013, and town skyline backdrop to its soccer video games in Brooklyn Bridge Park usually made visiting gamers clamor for selfies.

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

St. Francis has stated he’ll honor the athletic scholarships of the gamers with eligibility remaining. “Some of the older gamers are planning to remain in New York,” stated 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 on the lookout for colleges.”

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

When the match was over on Friday, the crew 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 stated.

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

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