The dream season continues for the Arizona State men’s tennis team. The Sun Devils are headed to the NCAA Tournament, in the program’s first year back on campus.
“It’s super exciting for us,” said head coach Matt Hill, just moments seeing ASU’s name pop up during the selection show. “There's been a lot of work that goes into building the program back from scratch. And to play in the tournament your first year, it's very special."
Budget cuts forced ASU to cut men’s tennis in 2008. Thanks to a $1 million dollar gift by athletic director Ray Anderson, ASU was able to reinstate the program. Hill has been able to bring in players from all over the world.
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"In the beginning, it was a little uncertain because I came here with no college experience,” said Michael Geerts, who came to Tempe from Belgium. “It was new for everyone. I'm the senior and captain. I had to adapt and find out what college tennis was all about, got really excited. Tried to give my experiences to the younger guys. I think everybody was really professional and really tried to focus on the tennis on and off the court and I think that's why we made it to the NCAA Tournament."
Geerts was eligible to play one year of college tennis after playing in the Belgium Federation. He upset the No. 1 player in the country, UCLA’s Martin Redlicki on April 13. Geerts will play in the NCAA singles tournament later this month. He’s helped turn the young group of international players into a family.
“I was a little bit shy, they were shy too,” said Makey Rakotomalala, a sophomore from France. “The first two weeks we were a little cold and now we're like brothers."
It was an ambitious goal for ASU to set its sights on the NCAA Tournament in its first year back on campus. Now that the goal is complete, Hill can try to pull off another unlikely achievement.
"We've played 60-70 percent of the tournament. I've made mistake before of scheduling to get a really good ranking,” said Hill. “Left court feeling unprepared for how tough level was for how high the level was. When we show up in College Station, they're not going to be surprised at anything by all means."
ASU opens the NCAA Tournament with Baylor in College Station, Texas. It will take six wins to hoist a national championship trophy later this month at Wake Forest.
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