Written by: Nicholas Baltz / Co-Sports Editor (The Southwestern Sun)
Women’s tennis, historically one of the college’s most successful programs, may return from the dead thanks to pressure from the community and a better state budget.
Men’s volleyball may also come back to life if college leaders approve a request by Athletic Director Terry Davis to resuscitate both teams in 2014-15.
Davis has requested the funding, he said. Although he said he is optimistic, he warned it is not a done deal.
“We have a tennis center, there is huge interest in the community,” he said. “A lot of high schools play on it and there’s interest from (SWC) students.”
With a championship-rich history dating back to 1971, the Lady Jaguars tennis team was cut in 2009 during the Chopra/Alioto era for what was promised to be a short time, said coach Susan Reasons.
“It was originally only supposed to be two years,” she said. “Every spring is difficult. I still get kids who ask me, ‘Why don’t we have a tennis team?’”
Reasons always fielded a strong team and provided excellent opportunities to her athletes, many of whom earned full university scholarships.
Reasons’ players included Viridiana Martino, California Community College Scholar/Athlete of the Year for 2007 who later graduated cum laude from USC.
“When my team got cut it broke my heart,” Reasons said. “I had two girls the year before who were top players in the state looking for scholarships and they didn’t get that chance.”
An SWC Hall of Famer, Reasons built her life around the Jaguars tennis program.
“I knew I wanted to do this in high school when I picked up my first tennis racquet,” she said. “It’s just who you are. Once you’re a coach, you’re always a coach.”
Reasons has been forced to the sidelines in recent years, but said she is still ready.
“I’m not a selfish person and I’ve sat on my hands for five years,” she said. “The community can benefit from tennis. These courts are always full and it’s inexpensive to run.”
Factors in determining which sports to fund include travel, number of students, breakdown of gender and popularity, said Davis.
Tennis is an inexpensive sport, said Reasons.
“There are no referees or umpires,” she said. “Players call their own games and coaches help to resolve any disputes. Home matches are free of cost other than tennis balls.”
She said she even has brand new uniforms waiting to be worn.
Reasons gives tennis lessons in the afternoon to about 50-60 kids a week. SWC is a rare self-sufficient program. Reasons’ community programs pay for all of the equipment, lights, her salary and even make a profit for the college.
“Kids that go through all make it onto their high school teams,” she said. “Some of these kids have been here 7-8 years.”
SWC recently played host to the PCAC men’s tennis championships with help from Reasons and SWC athletic trainers despite not fielding a team of its own. Scott Strange, the Grossmont College men’s tennis coach, said that was a shame.
“This conference, this year, the PCAC was the toughest conference in the state of California,” he said. “We would like for Southwestern to rejoin our conference as a men’s tennis program. We’ve been waiting for five years.”
Even if a return of women’s tennis is in the cards, the men’s tennis team may not be so lucky. Davis said men’s volleyball is a more viable option.
“Volleyball is a sport that we’ve never had for men,” he said. “We always want to serve the greatest number of students possible.”
This past season students created a volleyball club that practiced and competed on their own time.
Angela Rock, an Olympic medalist, has coached women’s volleyball at SWC for seven seasons. She said the club proved there is a strong interest in the sport.
“We have about 25 guys who are regulars,” she said. “The club was both men and women so we had about 45-50 (total). It was a really popular club.”
Rock said she hopes to coach both teams.
“I would love the opportunity to coach the guys,” she said. ”I know these guys from years of playing with them in my classes. For me it does not feel like work, it’s fun, it’s where I want to be.”