On an overcast day, earlier than a few dozen folks on the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, a crew of gamers sporting gentle blue uniforms battles a crew in darkish blue throughout six courts.
This is the place a faculty tennis crew has the best second in its historical past. And the place it goes to die.
For the primary time, the boys’s crew from St. Francis of Brooklyn was taking part in within the NCAA event. But after the first-round match was over on Friday, and St. Francis had fallen, 4-0, to Columbia, this system was no extra. St. Francis is dropping all of his sports activities on the finish of the college yr for budgetary causes.
Chad Davis performed at St. Francis and has been the boys’s tennis coach for 19 years. “Being an alum of the school, being there for therefore lengthy and seeing this system develop yr after yr and battle after battle, it is undoubtedly a bitter capsule to swallow,” he stated.
Making the event appeared unlikely after St. Francis received off to a 1-10 begin this season, together with a loss in his first convention recreation. “It was undoubtedly troublesome at first; We weren’t clicking,” Davis stated.
Then in March got here the information that the school’s athletic applications have been being shut down. The college cited “elevated working bills, flattening income streams, and plateauing enrollment.”
“It was very shocking,” stated one of many gamers, Luis Foix Sotos, from Jávea, Spain. “When I noticed the athletic director, her voice was very unhappy. I stated, ‘Something is occurring right here.’ When she instructed the information, some folks have been crying. It was a very unhappy second.”
Davis stated, “Just to listen to it, it was undoubtedly a intestine punch.” Yet the information, the coach stated, oddly appeared to rally the crew. “The guys form of got here collectively, and we strung collectively some good wins.”
The crew received seven of its final eight video games, together with all of its remaining convention video games. But it wanted to win the Northeast Conference event to qualify for the NCAA event. In the ultimate, it met Fairleigh Dickinson, which had eradicated it the earlier two years.
Foix Sotos was the participant who received the clinching match in a 4-2 victory. “It was the very best feeling ever,” he stated. “It was one of many happiest moments of my life. For me, it was epic; it was like a film that led to one of the simplest ways potential.”
In the NCAA event in opposition to Columbia, St. Francis was a large underdog; With a 19-3 document, Columbia had achieved the very best rating in its historical past, at No. 13 nationally. The match came about in entrance of principally family and friends, a far cry from when the Billie Jean King Center is overstuffed with followers paying $24 for rooster tenders on the US Open.
St. Francis was hampered additional by being short-handed, partly as a result of some gamers have been unable to cancel journey plans that they had made when a journey to the event appeared unlikely. Foix Sotos, for instance, performed fourth singles, slightly than his regular sixth. And Davis additionally needed to miss the match with a well being downside.
Columbia made fast work of the opening doubles matches, with out dropping a set, and the singles matches have been no nearer. When Columbia received its clinching third singles match, the others have been halted, and St. Francis’ closing season was completed.
St. Francis was one of many smallest faculties with Division I athletics.
The males’s basketball crew was one in all simply 4 unique members of Division I by no means to make the NCAA event. But the boys’s water polo crew made a number of Final Four journeys, most not too long ago in 2013, and the town skyline backdrop to its soccer video games in Brooklyn Bridge Park recurrently made visiting gamers clamor for selfies.
The males’s and ladies’s observe groups are the final ones nonetheless going, however in a few weeks their closing seasons, too, will probably be over.
St. Francis has stated he’ll honor the athletic scholarships of the gamers with eligibility remaining. “Some of the older gamers are planning to remain in New York,” stated Foix Sotos, whose personal eligibility is exhausted. “They have a life right here, and so they do not wish to switch for just one yr. But for the freshmen and the sophomores, all of them wish to switch; they’re searching for faculties.”
Athletic officers stated they have been getting resumes collectively. Does Davis have any plans after 20 years on the college? “At the second, no I don’t.”
When the match was over on Friday, the crew gathered in a circle by one of many nets, linked arms, and shared a non-public second.
“We have been simply saying thanks,” Foix Sotos stated.
“My final faculty match,” he stated of the sudden go to to the event. “Today was like a reward for me.”