The Bluefield State men’s tennis team will get an early wake-up call this morning.
It’s a call they won’t mind taking.
For the second straight year, the Big Blues will take part in the NCAA Division II National Championships, which will begin on Tuesday in Surprise, Ariz. The event will continue through Saturday.
“That tennis team has stirred up a tremendous amount of excitement on our campus as well as the golf team,” said Bluefield State athletic director and golf coach Terry Brown.
The Bluefield team and coach Louie Belt will leave Bluefield State this morning with a police escort at 7:30 a.m., with a long plane trip awaiting to sunny Arizona.
That is just part of what Bluefield State has planned this morning to give the Big Blues’ a proper sendoff to the national championships.
“We have a plan on Monday to see our players off to the nationals,” Brown said. “They will have a police escort out of town by the City of Bluefield.
“We will have a breakfast reception for them and recognize each one of those guys at that time. We have our city officials that will be there, and we will have our administration that will be there.”
Bluefield State (21-2), which won the last two West Virginia Conference and Atlantic Region One championships, will play West Florida in the Round of 16 on Tuesday.
The Big Blues have a practice session set for tonight in Arizona, and will meet the Argonauts at 11 a.m. on Tuesday. West Florida is 25-1 on the season.
“They are paired up with West Florida, and they are currently ranked number three in the country,” Brown said. “That will be a good test for us, but I am telling you our guys are playing better now than they have all year.”
Belt, who has built Bluefield State tennis to national prominence, expects the Big Blues to be a little more prepared for the enormity of playing in the sports highest stage.
“Last year, they couldn’t help feeling happy to be there. They were actually kind of worn out,” said Belt, following the Blues’ regional win over Kutztown last Monday. “This year, we have the attitude of ‘be more prepared and cause some havoc and win a match.’
“When we step on the court with a team that’s very good, we won’t feel so overwhelmed, regardless of whether we win or lose.”
Bluefield State had no trouble defeating Kutztown last week, winning 5-0 in less than three hours on the Bluefield City Courts.
“I was very impressed with our play in the regional championship, that match was never in doubt from start to finish,” Brown said. “I think we ended up winning 5-zip.”
The Big Blues won all three doubles matches, led by the combinations of Jacob Carey-Pitor Kruk, Shikhar Kapur-Vishwesh Sinha and Niklass-Sparr-Vlad Catran. The Big Blues needed just two wins in singles play, and got those from Carey and Sinha.
Brown said the Bluefield State campus is thrilled with the efforts of the tennis team, a collection of worldwide athletes from New Zealand, India, Portugal, Poland, Sweden and America.
“The excitement (the tennis team) has brought to our campus and the excitement around our community and the city of Bluefield, I just can’t say enough about them,” Brown said. “It has brought quite an excitement here on campus.
“Those guys are just nice guys, they are great students and just very pleasant to be around, it has been a very enjoyable experience. I work with a couple of these guys on an individual basis on academic things and I am very impressed with their academic work.”
While the Bluefield State tennis team is making its second trip to nationals, Brown’s golf team is in Wheeling playing in the Atlantic-East super-regionals, hoping for a top 3 finish to qualify for the NCAA Division II golf championships.
He likes the chances of both teams.
“I really think both our men’s tennis and men’s golf, these guys will represent us in a very professional manner and they will represent the institution as best they can,” Brown said. “I think both teams are very prepared to the best that they can do, and that is what they have to do.
“They have to be prepared and they have got themselves ready.”
—Tom Bone contributed
to this report