April 30, 2015

My Championship Experience -- 2015 Men's Tennis Edition

My Championship Experience is a diary blog written by Summit League student-athletes detailing their experiences at each of the 19 Championships.

Denver sophomore Alex Gasson writes about his experience at the 2015 Summit League Men's Tennis Championship:  

After a day of travel, our spirits were high as we arrived on Thursday into Fort Wayne, Ind. First order of business; the Summit League Banquet. A night where we can wear something other than sweats and actually look like a group of civilized human beings. The night began with opening speeches and dinner, both of which were wonderful. After we had stopped gorging, we began with the awards ceremony. This part of the night was fantastic as so many members of each team were recognized for all their hard work and effort throughout the regular season. It was an honor walking up with my co-captain and doubles partner Henry Craig to receive the regular season champion’s trophy on behalf of our team. We also were lucky enough to receive a speech that outlined the “Seven components of a championship team”, a speech that did a great job in outlining the characteristics and requirements that any winning team needs to have. After the banquet we went straight back to work; no rest for the wicked. We practiced from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. … we slept well that night.

The following day (Friday) consisted of two practices, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The entire team was striking the ball great as we worked through our regular ‘on-the-road’ drills. After practices were done we all had a solid two hour break before we would have to freshen up and get ready for dinner. I’m sure I speak for the whole team when I say we spent every minute studying and most definitely did not take a nap… For dinner we accompanied the Denver Women’s Team to Biaggi’s for another good meal. Both the women and us had just found out who we would be taking on in the semi-finals; Oral Roberts for us and South Dakota for the women. After an inspirational team talk back at the hotel we all returned to our rooms to rest up for our 10 am face-off against ORU. Preparation had begun.

Saturday started with a 7 a.m. wake up. Surprisingly perky, we headed to the indoor facility at 8:15am after breakfast where our semi-final would take place. Banter was flying as we made the finishing touches to our preparation; applying fresh grips, filling up water bottles etc. We felt good, we felt ready. Also working in our favor was the crowd, or rather one member of it. Our Athletic Director Ron Grahame had taken a detour from his work trip to come and support us in our semi-final. This gave us even more wind beneath our wings as we went on to take the doubles point in a storming fashion. Transferring the momentum over into singles play, we took 6 first sets. Our #4 David Fox (Foxy) would get the second point on the board, followed by our #2 Diogo Rocha (Diogz) tallying us up to 3-0. Henry Craig (Hank) would clinch the victory for Denver as he swept his way to a straight sets victory at the #1 position. We were in the finals, but we weren’t done yet.

After an afternoon of supporting the women through their semi-final victory over USD, we returned to the hotel to catch up on our studies. For real this time. Dinner consisted of typical pre-match food; pasta. Feeling good about our win but not getting ahead of ourselves, we discussed the final. We knew IPFW were an extremely worthy foe as they had proven more than difficult in the final last year. We were expecting their very best as any team plays exponentially better when in front of their home crowd. We went to bed itching with excitement for the opportunity to take them on.

Sunday started just as Saturday had; 7 a.m. wake up, head to the courts at 8:15 and start our final preparation. After the national anthem, we huddled in. Very few words were said as we knew what we had to do. A loud home crowd and one or two controversial issues brought the best out of the guys, we responded with high focus and high energy taking the doubles point with wins at #2 and #3. Going into singles we knew it was far from over, there was still a lot of work to do. But I could not be more proud of how we came out as one unit and kept the momentum in our favor. I took the first win at #3 singles to give us the 2-0 lead. Henry would carry us to 3-0 with another straight sets victory at #1. Diogo would extend his extremely impressive record and bring home the clinch and give us the automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. We were going to the big dance!

After we had been through the formalities and took a well-deserved shower, we got behind the women’s team and saw them also claim the championship. Overall a very good weekend for Denver!  

To close, I would like to thank the Summit League and IPFW on behalf of the Denver Men’s Tennis Team for everything they have done for the championships. And that is what it felt like, a true championship tournament. 

We look forward to representing the Summit League at the NCAA tournament as we plan on making some serious noise!

Don’t forget to check out the next edition of My Championship Experience as it follows Summit League spring sports championships in May.

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