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Victoria College Tennis Team

By BY MARC A. HINOJOSA - MHINOJOSA@VICAD.COM
Jan. 31, 2010 at 11 p.m.
Updated Jan. 31, 2010 at 8:01 p.m.

Kyle Griffith, with the Victoria College tennis program, returns a serve Wednesday afternoon at Victoria College.

There is a competitive tennis team at Victoria College, and its plans are to compete in the 2010 United States Tennis Association National Campus Championship.

Under the leadership of team captain Luis Piña, the 16-member tennis squad will be one of 78 teams from other colleges and universities in the state competing for the chance to represent Texas in the USTA Nationals.

"It will be a great experience that we are all looking forward to and this grant has made all the difference in allowing the VC team to compete," said Piña.

The grant that Piña is referring to an $800 grant from the USTA that will go towards the VC team's travel expenses for the section event, which takes place the last weekend in February in Austin at the University of Texas campus.

Piña said that each team awarded the grant is required to perform hours of community service.

The VC tennis team will complete 100 hours of service by the end of the 2009-10 academic year. One of Piña's community service plans is to mentor junior high school students.

"We have plans to conduct a tennis clinic at Crain Middle School . and have plans to conduct similar clinics at Patti Welder and Howell," said Piña.

The clinics, Piña states, are "to help middle school students learn the basics of tennis." He also hopes to bring awareness to the community of the competitive tennis team at Victoria College.

Afredo Serna strongly believes that this could a stepping-stone for the college to have a regular competitive tennis program, similar to the basketball program VC now has.

Serna has offered his services to the team as coach. He brings 18 years of experience as a player and coach.

"I was asked to help and when you are a tennis coach, you feel obligated to teach," said Serna.

So he has volunteered his time as a favor to some of his former tennis students and for the love of the game.

Serna's tennis background includes several coaching certifications with the USTA and he has coached at Edna and St. Joseph High Schools. He played competitively at Delmar College and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Serna currently coaches with the Port Lavaca Tennis Association.

Piña approached Serna last fall about coaching the team, while Piña was taking the tennis class at the college.

"Coach Serna is a very good coach, especially when it comes to teaching beginners," said Piña.

Not that there are any beginners on the squad.

All team members have competed at the high school level with varying degrees of success. But Serna realized that not playing tennis regularly at a competitive level, some skills were going to have to basically, be re-taught.

"There are different skill levels here, so I have to instruct on an individual and team basis," said Serna.

Members of the squad hail from high schools throughout the Crossroads area, including Goliad, Industrial, Port Lavaca, plus Victoria schools, Memorial and St. Joseph. An additional team member attended schools in India.

Most are full-time students and some carry the added workload of jobs. Balancing competitive tennis is not an easy task.

The team practices as a group twice a week and participated in several tournaments during the fall semester with varying levels of success.

As Serna puts it, "Our top team has beaten some the bigger universities, but then again, has done poorly against some other junior colleges. It's all a learning process."

"Our goal has been to get past the first round in each tournament and we have managed to do that, which is a significant step for a first-year team," said Serna.

But Serna and the team are well aware that the further you progress in tournament play, the chance against going up against the likes of a UT or A&M squad increases.

Piña has been the cornerstone of the VC team, organizing the team, scheduling tournaments and attending classes. He learned of the grant when applying for the team's USTA membership.

"It (the application) was a very long process and I had no idea where to begin. I was offered some direction from another coach and I took it from there," said Piña.

Prior to the grant, all funding had come from each and every team member.

"We have paid our own transportation and meal expenses at tournaments," said Piña.

That's a tall order for any college student.

The Victoria College has provided the tennis team with equipment and uniforms, but Piña hopes to solicit sponsorships to help defer additional costs associated with attending the tournament.

He also has high hopes that maybe what he started will eventually pay dividends and a competitive tennis program will become a mainstay at Victoria College.

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