USF Says Goodbye to Dons Tennis

Pictured left to right: Maria Martinez Vaquero, Rita Colyer, Hana Gamracy, Qianer Qiu, Simran Chhabra. Photo courtesy of Chris M. Leung/Dons Athletics.

The USF men’s and women’s tennis teams held their final home matches last weekend, marking an end to one of the university’s historic athletic programs, following the Apr. 5 announcement of their discontinuation. Both the men’s and women’s matches garnered a supportive turnout from USF fans, alumni and fellow student-athletes.

The men took on the St. Mary’s College Gaels on Apr. 20 at the California Tennis Club. USF student-athletes from the soccer, golf, volleyball, cross country and track & field teams gathered around the courts. 

Senior volleyball player Aylen Ayub said her team frequently attends the tennis team’s home games. “Today was a little extra important [with] everything that’s going on in the program,” she said. “We wanted to show them support and how we’re trying to be there for them.”

Junior cross country and track runner Carter Lewis added, “We feel for them. As a student-athlete, my sport is everything. We practice six days a week, and I’ve been doing this sport for eight years, and the same goes for the tennis team.”

After an emotionally charged game, the Dons lost 4-2 against the Gaels. The game was followed by a ceremony for senior night and a commemoration for the program’s end. 

USF announced the discontinuation of the tennis programs on Apr. 5. Pictured left to right: Julia
Visaya, Simran Chhabra, and Peter Bartlett. Photo by Kaleb Martinez/SF Foghorn.

Team captain and graduate student Davide Cortimiglia said, “It was incredible, playing in front of so many people that love the tennis program and came to support us. It’s unbelievable. It was hard not to cry during the match, especially the last games because every point could have been the last one.” 

Cortimiglia, who is originally from Genoa, Italy, said, “I was struggling to understand ‘What is playing for a university?’ ‘What is playing U.S. college tennis?’ but now I completely understand,” he said. “I’m very proud that I’ve been the captain of this team, helping my teammates during this tough period, especially when we came to know this tragic news about cutting the program… It’s an unbelievable path, and I love my teammates. I love my coaches. I love USF.”

“It’s sad to think that kids…that came to watch us and support us…they can’t play [tennis] for USF one day,” he said.

Senior tennis player Moritz Hoffman said, “I feel sad that this is coming to an end. I’ve been here for two years now, and this has been an amazing team…that’s what I’m going to take away from today. The friends and people and the connections that I made along the way.”

The women’s team played the following day, on Apr. 21, at the Goldman Tennis Center in Golden Gate Park. USF student-athletes, alumni and fans rallied for a second day to watch the team’s final match. 

The women’s tennis team maintained high spirits despite losing 0-4 against the Loyola Marymount University Lions. The team held a ceremony honoring coaches, players and alumni after the game. Head Coach Peter Bartlett, who has coached both the USF men’s and women’s teams for 29 years, said, “We appreciate everybody that came out today. It’s been an absolute joy that I got to live out my dream which is really to work and inspire and be inspired by [these players]. To you ladies, I thank you.”

Following his speech, Bartlett called up each women’s tennis player to present them with a bouquet of flowers, honoring their commitment to the tennis program. Lined up across the court, many of the players were visibly emotional. “This is my first year, and I wasn’t expecting them to cut the program,” said tennis player Julia Vasaya, who plans to transfer to another program to continue her collegiate athletic career. “I would love to stay here.”

Athletic Director Larry Williams and Vice President of Business and Finance Charlie Cross stated in their email announcing the program’s cancellations that they will support tennis players who chose to stay at the university. “Whatever they decide, we will stand with them. We will honor the scholarship commitments impacted student-athletes were awarded if they remain at USF.”  

The alumni were also welcomed to the court to be recognized. Following group photos with the tennis team, alumni Marisa Louie Stone, who played for the women’s team from 1976 to 1980, said, “I came out to celebrate with the team. It’s a shame that it’s their last match. The coaches are awesome. It’s a good experience for the girls. It’s such a shame that they had to cancel the team. I’m hoping that at some point, they’ll figure some way out to turn that around.”

USF Tennis alumni Rita Colyer, who was also present at the women’s final matches, expressed her discontent with the decision. She created an online petition in hopes of keeping the program alive. “I was pretty upset and just kind of… thinking what to do about this situation,” she said. “As an alumni, I feel like I was in a position where I could start the movement on getting positive attention to why we should keep the USF teams, and I really felt I had a plan.” Colyer played for the team from 2018 until last year.  

Colyer said that the petition’s goal was originally 1,500 signatures, but at the time of print, with the help of other alumni, the petition has gained just under 2,000 signatures and is on its way to completing its new goal of 2,500. 

“We have a group of 70 former USF tennis players dating back all the way to the early 2000s. That’s where we’ve been posting updates about the petition and the next steps,” Colyer said. The next steps include alumni and supporters directly contacting Cross, Williams, and USF President Paul Fitzgerald, S.J.

“It affects a lot [of] people,” Colyer said. “It’s not just the team… the tennis community in SF is impacted by this as well.”

Editor’s Note: Foghorn Sports Editor Chase Darden signed the petition to help save the USF tennis programs.

Editor-in-Chief: Megan Robertson, Chief Copy Editor: Sophia Siegel, Managing Editor: Jordan Premmer, Sports Editor: Chase Darden

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