Get tennis courts on campus

The Santa Barbara Dons are in the semifinals of the Division I boys’ tennis playoffs. It’s a familiar spot for them, just as it has been for the Wolverines, just as it has been for University High in Irvine and Dana Hills and other powerhouses in Southern California high school tennis.
When a team reaches the top levels of a sport, they might be expected to have a defining feature, something that distinguishes a team from its competitors. For the past four years, we’ve had Ryan Thacher ’08, who will end his reign at the top of high school tennis in June as the number one junior player in the country.

Santa Barbara doesn’t have a defining player like Thacher, though. Their mark is the largest home court advantage in the state.The Dons’ courts are located right on campus, and a large number of students flock to the matches to hang off the chain link fences that surround the courts and cheer on their team, creating a hectic atmosphere.

On the other hand, there’s Studio City Golf and Tennis, the “home” of one of the most vaunted teams in Southern California, where a series of courts sits confined in rusting metal next to a driving range full of weeds. With so many matches between the Southern Section’s top teams being decided by just a single set or a handful of games, on-campus courts can make a big enough difference to turn the tide in several matches a year.

Head of Athletics Audrius Barzdukas has already said that Athletic Department proposals have already been put forth and would hopefully include at least one if not more new indoor facilities to house games and practices for the varsity teams and club teams that use the school’s current gyms. Having three or four indoor facilities to house a handful of high school teams, no more than three of which will be in season at any one time, seems excessive. The department needs to spread out its funding to all its teams, and tennis courts — compact and easier to build than a full-fledged gym — are perfect.

Besides girls’ volleyball, no Wolverine team has been more successful recently than boys’ tennis — Thacher is the last remaining boy on campus with a CIF ring, and if that isn’t recent enough, then there’s always the team’s set of impressive streaks. There’s the run of 67 consecutive matches that the team rang off through the 2006 season. Or the regular season streak of 100 matches flat that just ended this past year.  

Meanwhile, no team besides the two mentioned above has even approached their highest level of success since the current senior class was in seventh grade. Excellence that the tennis team has displayed should be set up for a reward while it is still fresh in the minds of the student body.

And this is to say nothing of the lack of Fanatic-friendly spring sport that could be easily filled by the addition of on campus courts. While fans now fill the Slavin stands on Friday nights for football and the boys’ basketball games are often packed, most of the spring team sports are either off-campus, such as baseball, or not understood by most of the student body, like lacrosse.

Most of the student body knows the rules of tennis, if not team tennis, on a basic level, and the one-on-one nature of the matches make it perfect for fans looking to give their friends a psychological advantage when they play.

The Athletic Department usually loves the Fanatics, and finally getting them a spring sport to rally around, especially one where the playoff run comes at the end of APs, could be a real boon for the team and the department in general.

The department owes it to themselves and the student body, but most importantly one of the school’s strongest teams, to try to build courts in the near future.