This season, the tennis club of the University of Dallas made its long-sought transition into an NCAA tennis team. We have not heard from the team since this transition was announced in September, so it was time to check up on our new team as their first season draws to a close.
Tom O’Donnell, a junior physics major, founded UD’s tennis club in 2020. At the time, the club was very informal and they were open to anyone who was interested in practicing or learning tennis. This past year however, the university officially created a tennis team, of which O’Donnell is a leading player.
Andrew Le, a junior business major, is O’Donnell’s partner when the tennis team plays doubles. On game day, doubles are divided into three lines of which Le and O’Donnell are first. Many of UD’s tennis athletes play both doubles and singles, but Le prefers to play doubles.
“I’m more of a team player and so Tom and I play very well together,” Le said.
The tennis athlete’s mentality is understandably unfamiliar to most fans as opposed to understanding of other sports. Tennis uniquely has both the team mentality of a sport like basketball as well as a purely individual mentality like track and field.
“For singles it’s a very mental game,” said Le, comparing his performance in a doubles game versus singles. “That’s the biggest difference between the two: you have someone to pick you up when you’re down and then the other it’s just you.”
Gabriel Saldivar, a junior business major on the tennis team, agreed with Le’s distinction. According to Saldivar, doubles partners practice together to create a synchronization in their playing.
“I would say it’s like playing chess two versus two, you’re both in your head,” shared Saldivar. “You know your partner’s weaknesses and their strengths, not only in their skill, but also in their confidence.”
This unique way of practice and play presents a challenge for tennis athletes switching from a doubles mindset to a singles mindset on the same game day. This is not the only challenge presented to our team.
Having no true “home” court to host matches and fans, the tennis team finds the crowd energy of their matches to be a challenge. Both Le and Saldivar remarked that it can be disheartening to the players to see the support their opponents receive in the stands, while their own fans cannot travel with them. Support from their fellow UD students is something the athletes hope for in future seasons.
“I think it would improve morale a lot,” said Saldivar. “As an athlete, whatever sport you’re at, if your friends are involved, the community that you’re representing is also behind you. It pushes you forward.”
The tennis team at UD hopes to one day regain their home court. According to Jacob Delao, the coach of UD’s tennis team,“There are long-term plans for courts on campus but no timeline yet.”
The tennis team, however, hopes that future tennis seasons at UD will include rigorous practices as well as supportive fans in a fresh new court.
Even without a home court, the tennis team practices daily with weekend tournaments thus maintaining the usual busy schedule of student athletes. The team seems to be enjoying their work this season as well as looking forward to their futures in tennis at UD.
According to Saldivar, being on the tennis team has made his college experience richer. Saldivar said he’s begun to recognize the influences of his life as an athlete in the friendships and the activities of his college experience in general.
Both Saldivar and Le have plans for their personal improvement in the sport over the summer and they both expressed a hope to promote interest in the new sport.
“We had some pretty low numbers the beginning of the semester, but we were able to get some new kids out there,” said Le.
With incoming students and returning Rome students, UD’s tennis team will hopefully grow by next season. In one short academic year, the tennis club has grown into an official team, and it seems that the athletes are ready to continue to take on whatever challenges are necessary to keep their team progressing.