I invite you to get a glimpse of what a Division I conference championship tournament entails. My name is Tim Akhmedov and to get a better understanding of the significance of this exciting event, I want to offer some background on my journey here. I am one of five seniors on the team this year, having played at UMKC for my last two years. For as long as I have been on this team, there has been a certain sense of pride and excitement knowing that every year we have a tremendous opportunity to bring home the championship.
Wednesday, April 24
To get a better feel for the courts and the atmosphere, we arrived in Fort Wayne two days before the tournament began. Although cold and windy, we were able to get a good practice in which was extremely beneficial to get familiar with the facility. Afterwards, the team went out to dinner, which is usually preceded by a heated debate on where the feast should take place. Golden Corral was the final decision, with the strict condition that we only choose healthier options. Unbeknownst to the coaches, a number of us splintered off in a coordinated effort to sneak in some chocolate-dipped marshmallows and ice cream.
Thursday, April 25
After eating a hearty breakfast, we once again battled the bitter wind in order to get another solid practice in, our last one before the tournament began. The rest of the day consisted of attempting and miserably failing to stay caught with homework we have procrastinated on, while successfully wasting three hours browsing mindlessly through a number of social networking sites. That evening we attended The Summit League Banquet, which presented us the opportunity to dust off those rarely worn dress clothes. The banquet was wonderfully put together by the IPFW staff and administration, serving up some great food…although it paled in comparison to last year’s dinner (Sorry, you just can’t compete with good ol’Kansas City BBQ!)
Friday, April 26
Game day!! We awoke early to prepare for a 10 am semifinal match vs. the host team, IPFW. There was a palpable sense of anxious excitement in the air. As we arrived at the courts, it was all business. Once we stepped on the court, the energy was tangible as every person focused on the job lay ahead. This was not going to be an easy match and we knew that nothing was going to be given to us, this was going to be a dogfight till the end! IPFW was tremendous competitors and it took every person on our team grinding and battling for every point to walk away with the win. We were one step closer! After our match, we grabbed a quick bite and rushed back to the courts to cheer on the women’s team as they faced off against SDSU in the semifinal. The girls came out strong and walked away with the win, securing their spot in the championship match. Now it was time to rest and prepare for our final showdown in the Summit League.
Saturday, April 27
“This is it!!” All of the sacrifices we have made have led up to this moment. There was no looking back. Once again, we awoke early to eat a solid breakfast and give us ample time to prepare for final against IUPUI. Upon arriving at the courts, we knew our energy and passion were going to be the determining factors in this match. I am very proud to say that each and every one of my teammates brought everything out that day. Playing our hearts out, we came away victorious, once again snatching The Summit League Conference Championship! It was a great feeling to know all of the work we have put in was worth this great moment. After celebrating our victory and taking a number of pictures as we hoisted the Championship trophy, we once again grabbed a very quick lunch as we had to focus on supporting the women as they battled the top-seeded IPFW. Although the girls lost a heartbreaking 4-3 duel to a tremendously talented IPFW team, I could not be more proud of the unwavering competitive spirit each and every one of them displayed.
Finally, I would just like to offer a huge thank you to everybody at IPFW for putting together such a wonderful tournament experience. Everybody from the athletic trainers and officiating umpires to the athletic director and coaching staff did a tremendous job of creating a welcoming atmosphere and fostering a positive, competitive environment.
I speak for myself and my teammates in saying how amazing of an experience it has been to compete in The Summit League. I wish all of the best to the teams that will continue to represent outstanding quality of Division I tennis within The Summit League. Thank you for the memories!