After a 12-year hiatus, Hillsdale will finally reintroduce a men’s tennis team to campus. The team will officially begin playing in the fall of next year.
Head coach Keith Turner is in charge of the resurrection of the program and is currently in the process of recruiting the eight to 12 players needed for the team.
To scout players, Turner will travel to high school tennis tournaments throughout Michigan, and he will research on websites and databases to contact players nationally.
The men’s tennis team was cancelled after the 2002 season due to few practice options during the winter months.
“[The] college administration determines when a varsity sport is added based on the contribution it is expected to make to the college,” Director of Athletics Don Brubacher explained. “It was decided the time was right a few years ago to add women’s tennis and that now is the right time to add men’s tennis. The plans to build the Biermann Center, which provides indoor practice space for tennis, played into the decision to add women’s tennis. The impending construction of the new outdoor courts was significant in the decision to add men’s tennis.”
Although the team will not officially start playing matches until next year, Turner explained in a mass email to students that depending on the interest, he may consider scheduling practices this fall and spring with a couple of scrimmages later in the year. The coach also added that tryouts could start as early as in the next two weeks.
Turner has 36 years of tennis experience and comes to Hillsdale after two years of coaching at Albion College.
Under Turner’s instruction, both the men’s and women’s tennis teams at Albion earned the highest overall grade point averages out of all tennis teams in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) in 2013.
Turner expressed the importance of the academics of his players, saying, “Things I’m looking for at Hillsdale is first off, [the players] have to be very good in the classroom. Academics come first. At the same time, they need to be driven to succeed on the tennis court and the classroom, [have] good attitudes [and be] respectful to everyone- coaches, players, opposing coaches, officials.”
Turner feels fortunate to be working at Hillsdale, where his brother Stacy graduated in 1992, because he can focus on just the men’s team in contrast to Albion, where he coached both men’s and women’s tennis.
“It’s a hard job to coach both teams. [Now,] I’m not spread as thin,” Turner said.
Before coaching at Albion, Turner served as the head tennis coach at Limestone College in South Carolina, where he guided the team to NCAA Division II tournament appearances in 2009 and 2010. He also earned Coach of the Year honors at the 2010 Conference Carolina.
Although winning is an important part of any sport, Turner admits that his favorite part of coaching is “seeing the development of the kids over the year, [and their] growth on the tennis court, in class, [and after they] graduate.”
Turner fondly remembers his own years in playing tennis for Boston University and then Western Michigan University, calling them “the four most enjoyable years of my life.”
Freshman Dugan Delp, who has been playing tennis since before the age of seven, is interested in the new program.
“I am thrilled that Hillsdale is reviving the men’s tennis program,” Delp said. “I think adding a men’s tennis team back to campus will benefit the college in many ways. Especially as we begin this team, players who are already on campus will get involved and try out. Additionally, having a men’s tennis team will attract new students and faces to Hillsdale. I hope students will enjoy attending men’s tennis matches and cheering for the team when we begin our matches.”
Freshman Sam Adamson is also interested in participating on the tennis team.
“I think it’s very exciting to be part of a practically new tennis team. As one of the first members, I hope to play a big role in developing healthy team culture and team traditions,” Adamson said.