A sports dynasty can be defined as a team that dominates their sport or league for multiple seasons or years. Many dynasties have come and gone, but HPU tennis currently features not one, but two. Having advanced to the NCAA national quarterfinals in each of the past three seasons, the Sea Warriors can stake claim to such a title.
This season, the men’s tennis team climbed as high as sixth in the ITA national poll. They advanced to the national semifinals and closed the season with a third place finish.
“The guys held themselves to such a high standard, so losing in the semifinals was very disappointing to them,” said Head Coach Stefan Pampulov. “What I’m really proud of is that they gave their best shot. It was a total team effort, and I know they’ll be able to reflect positively on the season.”
Senior Hendrik Bode commented on his experience of playing in the National Championships. “The national tournament gave us a much different feeling than any other match. It's more intense and more emotional, and there aren’t many times we’ll get that in our college careers. It’s sad that we couldn’t win it all, but I learned a lot the past four years, and can't thank my coaches and teammates enough for giving me this experience.”
The Lady Sea Warriors’ road to the National Championships went through La Holla, California. They were on the road for their regional playoff match, taking on UC-San Diego in what Pampulov felt was a hostile environment. “None of us were happy about having to play on the road,” said Pampulov. “UCSD had great fan support, and despite being down after doubles, the ladies’ focus and their determination pulled them through.”
The momentum carried them through to the National Championships, where they blanked Montana State-Billings, 5-0. But a trip to the semifinals was not to be, as they fell to Valdosta State. “It was a very tough loss, but every year we work harder and the ladies know what they have to do to get better as individuals and as a team,” added Pampulov.
“We won some big matches this season even though we had a lot of injuries,” said senior Anastasiya Ageychik. “We were happy with how we played, but also felt we could have done more. But despite a lot of players being out during the season, we were able to put it all together and get to the National Tournament again.”
Not only has each excelled as a team, but they continually feature some of the best players in the nation. On the men’s side, Bode has been nationally ranked throughout his HPU career, and Nikola Petrov has burst on to the scene in an equally impressive fashion. For the ladies, Zora Vlckova was consistently ranked in the nation’s Top 20 in her first season. Nina Mihova, whose name repeatedly appears in the national rankings, has become a dominant player for the Sea Warriors.
“The HPU Athletic Department is extremely proud of Coach Pampulov and the tennis teams,” praised Athletics Director Darren Vorderbruegge. “We were one of only two schools that had both the men’s and women’s teams go as far in the national tournament as they did. Stefan has done an excellent job in developing such a fine program.”
HPU now looks forward to 2010, when they hope to turn their dynasty into not one of just dominance, but of championships.