Better Late than Never

Captain Nick Hupton

By Granger Huntress, USTA.com

A year ago, Nick Hupton’s Men’s 5.0 team from Northern qualified for the 2008 USTA League Tennis National Championships. However, life stepped in the way, preventing the team from making the trip they had earned.

Roy Bryan and Daryn Collins were in the middle of medical school exams and could not make the trip, while Tommy Valentini had already committed to run the ITA Regional Championships that weekend at Gustavus Adolphus College.

At this year’s Northern Section Championships, Bryan elected to play with the Summer League team he captains and defeated Hupton and his teammates for the title, although he is a member of Hupton’s Fall League team.

“It really wasn’t a tough choice,” said Bryan. “We all play together on various teams, but this is the team I captain.”

The loss halted the dream again for one team, but allowed the other to make the trip.

Or so they thought.

One week ago, Hupton and his teammates were elated when he received an e-mail from Twin Cities League Tennis Coordinator, Tyler Krumholz, stating that if they could guarantee five players, a spot at the National Championships had opened up for a wild card.

“I really didn’t think we’d get it together,” said Hupton. “They had to know back by 11 a.m. the next morning and it just seemed unlikely.”

But within just a couple of hours, he had Adam Beduhn, Matt Lundmark, Ryan Haddorff and Tony Larson committed. Realizing this opportunity was too great, Lupton shuffled a few work obligations around so he could make the trip.

Now two teams from the Minneapolis area were heading to Indian Wells to play for a chance at a National Championships. These teams are not only from the same town, but all but one player on each team went to college at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minn.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the tournament.

The fact that Hupton could only muster the minimum five players for the trip to California, wasn’t going to be a problem, as these guys are all used to playing plenty of tennis.

The problem was Mother Nature.

Heavy rains hit the Minneapolis area on Thursday, stranding Hupton and the entire Bryan team at the airport, when their flight was cancelled. They eventually made their way to Denver, but missed the connecting flight. The seven Minnesotans shared a single suite at a hotel at the Denver International Airport.

The first flight out would get them to Ontario, Calif., at least an hour away, at 10:30 Friday morning, but with both teams facing matches at 7:30 and 11:00, something had to be done.

“I really felt like I was cursed,” said Hupton. “I have qualified for Nationals four times and never been able to attend. I was starting to think somebody didn’t want me here.”

In the meantime, Hupton’s four teammates, Lundmark, Haddorff and Larson, had left the Twin Cities earlier on Thursday and made it to Indian Wells. The Tournament Committee moved all of the Bryan team’s matches later, but would only move one of Team Hupton’s matches to the afternoon. This forced them to default the singles line against Eastern scheduled for 7:30 a.m.

Despite that loss, the four captured both doubles lines to clinch the match.

Around 1 p.m., Hupton and the Northern team captained by Bryan arrived at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden ready to play.

“I’m pretty high strung right now,” said Hupton upon arrival. “I just need to get on a court and play some tennis.”

The afternoon match was close, but Hupton’s wild card Northern team pulled it out against a tough Northern California team.

“With a couple of wins heading into tomorrow,” added an exhausted Hupton, “we’re here and enjoying it.”

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