Game. Set. 'Cats.

Taylor Maddox

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Photograph courtesy of Stuart Engle Sophie Wackerman and Ben Engle, right, give it their all during a fist-clenching match at Stanford University.

Photograph courtesy of Stuart Engle
Sophie Wackerman and Ben Engle, right, give it their all during a fist-clenching match at Stanford University.

Hard work, dedication and a large anonymous donation have all paid off for the Chico State Tennis Club, which is heading to a national competition after pulling off a huge upset against Stanford university’s club team.

Founded in 2008, the Chico State Tennis Club has already made a name for itself in the Northern California collegiate club section of the United States Tennis Association.

In its first year as an official club, its battled against a 20-team field to take ninth place and the Silver Bracket Championship at the 2008 Northern California USTA Campus Championship qualifier.

In its early days, the club was helped by generous donors and a fervent desire to bring the excitement of tennis to Chico State students, said Skyler Boles, the founder of the club and a Chico State teaching credential program student.

After the university received an anonymous $250,000 donation to rebuild the tennis courts, the club began competing more often, and now attends four to seven tournaments a semester.

“Now, we get to go and play tournaments against multiple schools, which can be a great format to play because you get to play a lot of different schools and meet a lot of awesome people.”

Boles has worked to build Chico State into an intimidating figure on the collegiate club tennis circuit, as well as to better inform the Chico State student body of its status as a competitive club, he said.

“Starting the club has been a huge part of me becoming a better leader,” Boles said. “There are many meetings, loads of paperwork and other duties. Some people do not even know we have tennis courts on this campus, let alone a competitive club team. It makes you think outside the box to try and get more people out there.

Having teammates with multiple skill levels has brought diversity to the team, said Cameron McCallister, a junior club member.

“I transferred here this semester from a junior college and this is my first semester playing for the Chico State Tennis Club,” McCallister said. “So far, it feels like everybody brings a different skill level, social acuity, athleticism, type of witty humor, or style of cheerleading to the team.”

The diverse approach to team-building appears to be paying off for the Chico State Tennis Club, which defeated Stanford University’s B Team on its way to securing a spot in the 2014 USTA Tennis On Campus Spring Invitational in Arizona.

Sophie Wackerman, a junior on the club, is still reeling from her team’s surprising upset.

“I am completely blown away that we made it to nationals,” she said. “We went into the tournament with the best team we’ve had since I’ve been at Chico, but we were definitely still the underdogs. We played amazing and put everything we had on the line against these bigger, intimidating schools and won. Beating Stanford’s B team to earn a slot was definitely a huge upset.”

Wackerman was also happy to deliver a huge victory for her club’s founder.

“I just can’t explain how proud I am of us,” she said. “It was a memorable weekend and we are stoked beyond belief to be going to Arizona in the spring, but most importantly, I know that it’s a dream come true for Skyler Boles. This win meant a lot to him.”

Wackerman hopes that tennis can become an official part of the Chico State athletic program at some point in the near future, she said.

“I have actually wanted tennis as an official Chico State sport for some time,” Wackerman said. “I would love more than anything for that to happen, and I think it would only do us good to have more recognition and get the word out there. I have seen the success that basketball and track have here at Chico and I have no doubt that we could get an amazing tennis team going.”


Taylor Maddox can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_sports on Twitter.

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