By Sarah Houseknecht, special to USTA.com
CARY, N.C. -- Each and every one of the 64 teams at the Tennis On Campus National Championship made the trip of a tennis lifetime because of their personal love for the game. They have each had their own experience with the sport, and yet though the sentiment circling the Cary Tennis Park is that club tennis programs are, universally, a source of love and friendship they will never forget.
From budding relationships to USTA staff memories, there were love stories on every court.
Here are their professions:
Alex Tajonar, Texas A&M University and Melissa Starck, Texas State University-San Marcos:
"I love Tennis On Campus because it a great way to meet people. I met my girlfriend Melissa at the 2011 sectionals when we were competing against each other. Then I saw her again at Nationals last year and we started hanging out. About two months at sectionals we reunited and had our first kiss there. After that, I drove the two hours from my campus to Texas State regularly to see her.
"It’s funny because we are rival schools. Our teammates think it’s great when we step off the court we are all friends. When we got to Nationals, I asked her out at Cary Tennis Park. If it weren’t for Tennis On Campus we never would have met each other."
- Alex Tajonar
Kevin Runda and Abby Linsley, University of Florida:
"I love Tennis On Campus because I met my boyfriend Kevin last year, my freshman year when we ended up playing mixed doubles together at practice. He was a sophomore. After we played together, we kept in touch through Facebook and then exchanged numbers at practice. A couple weeks later he offered me a ride home from practice. At first I said I didn’t need one; I shot him down, I didn’t know he liked me. He was persistent and asked again at the next practice so I said yes. Eventually he took me to dinner at the student union and we started dating and have been ever since."
- Abby Linsley
Riley Blanks, University of Virginia:
"I love Tennis On Campus because it gave me my love affair with the game back. I played varsity tennis at UVA for a year and felt like tennis and I weren’t working out. It was like we were married and needed a divorce. Now, playing club, I can just flirt with tennis. It’s perfect! Sometimes too much seriousness takes all the fun out of something; I was able to find the fun in tennis again."
Lauren Rothstein, Indiana University:
"I love Tennis On Campus because it has helped me regain a love for tennis that I had lost for so many years. I knew if I had played varsity, I would never have picked up a racquet again after college. That’s not the kind of relationship I wanted to have with tennis. In a leadership role as club president I have felt a passion for the game and built a club I am truly proud of. As a result, I really want to work in tennis after college."
Valerie McCutchan, Co-Tournament Director:
"I love Tennis On Campus because I have had the honor of watching it grow and develop. From Feb. 2000 when we had six people in a conference room at the University of Texas to today it has grown dramatically. It started out with 10 teams and since we have listened to the kids each year to create an event they truly enjoy. It’s amazing to see how the tournament has grown and the relationships that develop between the many associations and club teams that support it. It is so fun to watch. I love running this event because I know the student-athletes truly appreciate what we are doing. Every spring I hear from them and it is so fulfilling to know we have helped these kids continue their love of tennis."
Glenn Arrington, Co-Tournament Director & National Manager, Tennis On Campus:
"I love Tennis On Campus because it provides opportunities for every kid in America that swings a racquet to fulfill their dream of playing tennis at the college level. My favorite part is watching the coed teams interact with one another on and off the court. I went to a huge university with a great varsity program. When I didn’t make the team I wish a program like Tennis On Campus would have been around. My position at USTA allows me to help other kids like me continue the sport they love with their friends throughout their collegiate years."
Kim Clark, Director of Competition:
"I love Tennis On Campus because of the camaraderie it creates between the teams. The World TeamTennis format is perfect. The players are able to be competitive on the court and when they walk off it’s all very social. These kids are all here because they truly enjoy playing tennis."
Elaine Wingfield, Godbold Park Site Director:
"I love Tennis On Campus because of the World TeamTennis format. WTT started with professionals in the 1970’s. I played for the Ohio State University varsity program and played in the first collegiate WTT format tournament, which we won. I loved the idea of combining the men’s and women’s teams because it was social as well as competitive. I played four years of college tennis and the most memorable tournament for me was that first WTT tournament. I’ve been working for Billie Jean King for 26 years and she has always thought it was the perfect format for college tennis. Little did she know, WTT was even more perfect for Tennis On Campus.
"Once high school varsity players graduate and go to college, less than 10 percent make their college teams. Those kids don’t pick up their racquets again for 10 years. Tennis On Campus has provided a great way for them to stay in the game and continue to enjoy tennis."
Avi Parida, Tournament Support:
"I love Tennis On Campus because I played four years at Rutgers University and was able to attend four National Championships, two in Surprise, Ariz. and two in Cary, N.C. I never thought I would work for the USTA, but I actually saw the posting on the Tennis On Campus Facebook page and here I am today.
"I can’t seem to get enough of tennis. Tennis has always been a solid part of my life. Playing, watching and even working; it’s a great way to stay involved."