Think about what ESPN airs during the dog days of summer. No, not basketball. Uh, sorry, football hasn’t started yet. Nope, definitely not hockey. Sure, baseball is on, but that’s usually only on Sunday and Wednesday nights. Most of the time, the network is airing SportsCenter, the X Games or, more typically, tennis on repeat.
Tennis, only the fourth most popular sport in the world, has an estimated one billion fans. With household names like Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic, there’s always a storyline to follow during the tennis season.
So why does nobody care about college tennis?
College football and basketball dominate national headlines, lacrosse and baseball occasionally make the news, and track and field stars have the chance to go to the Olympics. But tennis players must be at the absolute peak of their game and in the right place at the right time to succeed on a national scale.
Well, there’s reason to follow the women’s tennis team at Ithaca College. Head coach Bill Austin has been leading the team for 17 years and has helped the team win 11 straight Empire 8 Conference Championships. Eleven years in a row. Think about that. Austin has led teams through a great deal of change at the college: a new president, new staff in the athletic department and the resignation of soon-to-be-former president Tom Rochon.
The team consistently dominates Empire 8 opponents and consistently plays well during the spring season, during which they attempt to make the NCAA Tournament. The team has won 11 straight Empire 8 titles, a streak that no other team at the school has come close to. By winning the Empire 8 Championship, the team earns an automatic bid to nationals.
Austin’s rosters have consisted of players from across the country. From California to New York City, the team’s dominance has drawn the interest of plenty of hopeful young players.
This past season saw the rapid ascension of senior Haley Kusak, the team’s top player in both doubles and singles, as she earned Empire 8 Player of the Year.
To top it all off, Austin earned his 10th Empire 8 Coach of the Year award. Going forward, expect the women’s tennis dominance to continue — whether you’re watching or not.