With no coach, little budget, Iowa State tennis club qualifies for Nationals

AMES, Iowa -- The Iowa State University Tennis Club is headed to Austin, Texas, April 20-22 for the United States Tennis Association on Campus National Championships.

The club qualified for the trip by winning the Missouri Valley Sectional Championships last month in Des Moines. The sectional hosted USTA teams from Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and parts of Illinois.

In the finals, Iowa State beat Washington University in St. Louis. The victory avenged Iowa State's loss in the finals last year to the Bears.

"This is a big win for our club," said Derick Tallman, the group's treasurer. "We have a lot of players who have worked very hard to make our club successful."

Men's and women's club tennis at Iowa State is not a varsity sport, has no coach, and operates on a tight budget. Funding for the club comes from member dues, Iowa State's Government of the Student Body and grants from local and national tennis organizations. Iowa State does have a varsity women's tennis team in addition to the club.

Started in 2003, the club now has more than 60 members and represents Iowa State in meets and tournaments around the Midwest. Club members range in ability from beginners to very experienced.

The club schedules formal practice times twice a week at venues around central Iowa, sometimes traveling as far as Drake University in Des Moines to find a place to train. The competitive men's team practices more often, especially when preparing for a big meet. The club also holds a once-a-week club night for everyone on the club to play.

The club's growth is no surprise to its president, Jen Grobeck. "Tennis is truly a sport for everyone," she said. "And our club gives members the ability to play for fun or competitively."

And Iowa State's club has been very competitive lately. The team posted a 5-0 record at the USTA sectionals meet and now looks forward to Austin.

"We're playing well right now," said Tallman. "And doing well at nationals would be a nice payoff for the hard work our team's been doing."

Michele Conlon, coach of Iowa State's varsity women's tennis team, lends her expertise when she can, and Kurt Earnest, of the Department of Residence, is the club's faculty advisor. For the most part, though, the club is run by the students.

Iowa State, Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State are the only Big 12 Conference teams that do not have men's tennis. All Big 12 Conference schools have varsity women's tennis.