San Antonio - Tennis history was made on 20 years ago today in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and St. Peter, Minnesota.
On that eventful day 20 years ago, the Trinity men's and women's tennis teams captured the NCAA Division III Championships. The Tiger men won the national crown in Kalamazoo, defeating Gustavus Adolphus (Minnesota) College. Trinity's women brought home the top prize 30 minutes later in St. Peter, with a victory over the University of California-San Diego. Prior to that season, no team in Division III had ever won both tennis titles in the same year.
Butch Newman, Trinity's current Director of Tennis, coached both the men's and women's squads. He decided to make the trip with the women's team to Minnesota with Assistant Coach Ryan Takao, who would later become the head coach of the Tiger women. Assistant Coach Keith McKay journeyed to Michigan with the men's team for the championship rounds.
The morning of the finals, Coaches Newman and Takao attended worship services, at the appropriately named, Trinity Church, in St. Peter.
"Someone smiled on us from above," said Coach Newman recently, when asked about the two national championships on the same day. "We were down in both matches, and we came back. You have to be good enough to win the national championship, you have to stay healthy, and you have to peak at the right time. You also need some luck, as well."
As Coach Newman said, the capture of the coveted trophies was far from easy. The Tiger men fell behind early against Gustavus Adolphus, but rallied to tighten the match at 3-3. Ed Rahn was left to carry the Trinity banner at #4 singles. The match was all-squared at one set apiece, and Rahn took the third stanza as Trinity garnered its first Division III national team title with a 4-3 decision over the Golden Gusties.
Sloan Rush further distinguished Trinity's program by advancing to the finals of the NCAA Men's Singles Championship.
"We had an inspired team which worked hard on the court," said Coach McKay, who now owns a restaurant in Spring Branch, Texas. "With Sloan Rush leading the way, as the head and the spiritual leader of the team, that was probaly what put us over the top."
The women's match with UC-San Diego was tied at 4-4. Abbe Ulrich lost the first set at #5 singles, and mounted a comeback to win the second. Ulrich then fired off a 6-1 win in the third set as the Tiger tennis program was 2-0 on the day for national championships.
"Both teams had spirit, camaraderie, and exhibited leadership," Coach Newman said of the two championship teams.
Trinity's men defeated Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference rival DePauw (Indiana) University in the Quarterfinals, and then beat University of California-Santa Cruz in the Semifinals. The Tiger women were Quarterfinals winners over Williams (Mass.) College, and then bested Washington & Lee (Va.) University in the Semifinals.
Current men's tennis Head Coach Russell McMindes was a member of the championship squad. In addition to Rahn and Rush, men's team members included Jeff Mueller, Joseph Ndesandjo, Jeevan Ramakrishnan, Ryan Scott, and Michael Slutzky.
In addition to Ulrich, women's team members were Lindsey Baldwin, Amanda Browne, Laura Cumming, Kristin Law, Nadine Nitisusanta, Lindsay Smith, and Lizzie Yasser.
The championship tennis teams were later honored by San Antonio's City Council, and were inducted into the 2013 Trinity University Athletic Hall of Fame during Alumni Weekend.
Trinity has claimed three more NCAA Division III Championships since the tennis teams got it all started. The Tiger women's basketball team won the title in 2003, followed by the men's soccer team in the fall of 2003. Trinity baseball secured its national championship in 2016.
The Tiger men's tennis team also won the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Indoor National Championship in 2015, while Trinity's men's and women's tennis teams have garnered 11 ITA Singles and Doubles national titles since 1997.