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By Jenn Townsend ‘15
Going to the NCAA Division III post-season tennis tournament is getting to be a habit for the Nichols men’s and women’s tennis teams.
After playing in the NCAAs last spring, the Bison men followed suit on May 9th, defeating Colby Sawyer in a 5-0 shutout in the first round of this year’s tournament before dropping a second round match, 5-1, to a powerful Williams team the following Saturday.
These high-profile accomplishments represent only the latest chapter in a continuing success story for both the men and women of Nichols tennis.
The men’s team consists of 16 players, two of whom come from overseas, Carlos de la Cruz from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and Eduardo Irizarry from Lajas, Puerto Rico. The women’s team, meanwhile, features 13 players, some of whom like Anna Dyakiv from the Ukraine and Kelsey Peterson from Fairbanks, Alaska, have come to Nichols from even farther afield.
As a freshman Irizarry had a singles record of 17-2 and an identical doubles record compiled with sophomore doubles partner Brandon Roode. Irizarry also was named CCCC Rookie of the Week three times.
“Making it to the NCAA tournament and competing against very tough teams in the fall season has given us a lot of confidence because we know that we can beat those teams,” says Roode.
The men’s tennis team prepares for the NCAA tournament by playing big name teams in the regular season. In the past season the Bison faced Division I school Holy Cross, beating them in a surprising 7-0 victory.
“In the summer I really enjoy training and getting better for the fall season to face these big opponents. I can’t wait for next fall to try and go a step further,” Roode says.
As for freshman partner Irizarry, “It’s been very different for me, the language, the food, and culture,’ he admits. “But I have enjoyed myself very much this year and love playing tennis here.”
Recruiting almost all 29 of his players, ninth-year coach Paul Brower has built the men’s and women’s teams into conference champions. “I spend a tremendous amount of time on recruiting,” Brower explains. “And a successful team is a big part of getting recruits to come to Nichols.”
The women, who play the bulk of their schedule in the fall, won the CCC Championship in 2010, 2011, and were CCC tournament finalists in 2012. The men won the league championship in 2012 as well as this year. Both teams have made it into the second round of the NCAA Divison III championships.