By Hillary Moore, USTA.com
Spending time with the men representing USTA Northern at the USTA League 4.5 National Championships is like spending time at a frat house. Not the pretentious, stuffy, exclusive type of fraternity but rather a charming, fun-loving, all-inclusive type of fraternity. If you’ve seen the movie “National Lampoon’s Animal House“, consider yourself familiar with these boys from St. Paul, Minn.
On a team where trading barbs is commonplace and having a sense of humor is mandatory, you would think you might be able to skate by with a few good punch lines here and there but you would be wrong. If you want to be a member of this team, you better have more than a bunch of jokes in your bag of tricks. You better come with some skill and a serious taste for competition.
The team plays out of Fred Wells Tennis and Education Center and came together after being members of opposing tennis teams in college. Nearly all of the team’s 20 members played tennis for schools including University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin, St. Cloud State University, Winona State University, Marymount, Ripon, and perennial Division III powerhouse Gustavus Adolphus.
Team captain Eric Gleason receives credit for bringing the guys together and translating their talents to victory. “He’s a maniac,” laughs team member Ben Davis. “He’s a recruiting machine and he has these crazy spreadsheets that project the optimal line-up for each of our matches. He’s like a Vegas odds maker.”
Maybe that’s contributing to the success they’re enjoying here at Darling Tennis Center in Las Vegas. The team went undefeated in pool play and will now face USTA Southern in the semifinals of the 4.5 Adult men’s national championship. “We did spend two or three hours strategizing in our hotel room last night. And yes, there were spreadsheets,” confesses team member Geoff Basham.
Along with being superior strategizers and skilled tennis players, their attitude and reverence for each other surely enters the winning formula. “We have guys who know how to win and we all get along so well it’s ridiculous,” says Davis. “It’s a perfect combination of camaraderie and intensity,” adds team member Marc Stingley.
With just two more matches standing between them and the national championship title, the USTA Northern team is dialed in. At first glance they may seem like comedy’s best, but when they step on a tennis court you remember what they’re here for and it’s not to make you laugh. It’s to make you take notice. As Basham says, “This team was created for one reason and that’s to win a national championship. We refuse to lose.”