Sports Staff Writer
The Southern Intercollegiate Championships acts as a showcase of some of the most talented college tennis players in the nation. The 51st installment of the tournament saw the UNC Asheville Bulldogs take home the doubles trophy.
“To come home with a trophy is a big deal,” said Tom Hand, head coach of the UNCA men’s tennis team.
Henry Patten, a senior at UNCA and Oli Nolan, a sophomore, were the pair who brought the trophy back to campus.
“It kind of felt like we gained momentum and once we had momentum the tournament kind of took care of itself,” Nolan said.
Both proficient tennis players, the win could be seen as a surprise to some as the two came into the tournament as the eighth seed.
“We don’t really play doubles with each other that often,” Patten said. “We managed to find a good energy on the doubles court and that sort of carried us through into the finals.”
The competition at the tournament was top notch according to Hand.
“To come home with wins against a couple of starting doubles pairs from some of the top SEC teams that’s no small thing,” Hand said. “It’s a great credit to them and the work that we’ve been doing.”
To beat those top teams Patten and Nolan brought their all to the court.
“Probably the best doubles we’ve ever played.” Patten said.
Nolan remarked on that their improvement could be seen on the court that weekend.
“On the doubles court, definitely the best I’ve ever played. Last year we played the sand tournament and we lost in the semifinal to the exact same people we beat in the semifinal at this tournament, so I think that kind of shows improvement,” Nolan said.
While Nolan has seen some improvement, he still works toward reaching the next level of tennis.
“I know Henry is used to playing at that level but for me it’s kind of a new thing,” Nolan said. “I’m looking to get to that level more consistently.”
Patten used his experience from the Southern Intercollegiate Tournament last year to help him this time around.
“We played the tournament last year so we knew what to expect up to a point but its always interesting to get back to that level,” the senior said.
Patten was the singles co-champion at the 2017 Southern Intercollegiate Championships. He was scheduled to play Tim Sandkaulen in the finals but the game had to be called off due to weather conditions.
“I think Henry obviously went in with a lot of expectation on him after the season he had last year which is not an easy thing, to carry that expectation with you,” Hand said. “That’s something he’s going to have to learn to deal with and for the most part he does a pretty good job of it.”
Patten played well in singles again but couldn’t repeat last years success.
“It’s the first tournament of the year so a little bit rusty,” Patten said.
With his senior year now underway, Patten hopes he and his team can help make this a successful year for UNCA tennis.
“It’s the last year for me. We’ve got a really good team this year so I think we’re all feeling pretty confident about conference play, got a great chance to make a run in the regular season and in the tournament so really looking forward to that,” Patten said.
With the first tournament of the year behind them and a trophy won, both players look forward into their futures as UNCA tennis players.
“The main goal is to win the Big South,” Nolan said.