It is no secret that the Valley of the Sun is a hot spot for tennis, pardon the pun. Its warm climate and short, temperate winters make it an ideal spot for anyone wanting to play tennis throughout the year. Along with California, Texas, and Florida it is one of the most popular places to play the sport in the entire nation. As the short winter comes to a close, high school and college tennis around the Valley is getting started and once again looks to be an exciting year.
While high school tennis won’t start practicing for a couple of weeks college tennis is starting their seasons and some local programs throughout the Phoenix area are sure to get some attention. The Maricopa Community College District has four schools that currently have men’s tennis programs. The Paradise Valley Community College Pumas are led by Coach Jim Paajanen and are excited to improve on last years performance against the likes of Glendale, Mesa, and Scottsdale Community Colleges. The Scottsdale Fighting Artichokes, yes that is their real name, are coached by former ATP ranked singles and doubles player, Dave Critchley, who hopes some of his past experience will rub off on his team.
The top of the class this year appears to be the Mesa Community College Thunderbirds who are coached by Adam Cohen and are coming off of a 19th place finish at the NJCAA National Championships last year and the Glendale Community College Gouchos. The Gouchos lost their 2011 all-american singles player Alex Sarkissian but hope to remain strong with last years all-conference players Trevor Campbell and Grayson Frazier. The Gouchos under Coach Bob MacKay have their first match on February 2nd in Fullerton, California against Fullerton College.
The biggest secret in college tennis throughout Arizona would have to be the Grand Canyon University teams coached by Greg Prudhomme. Prudhomme coaches both the mens and womens teams and last year won the prestegious 2011 Intercollegiate Tennis Association Men’s Wilson/ITA Coach of the Year. GCU is not a community college like the others mentioned so the success that it has generated as a Division II school is of great note. In addition to Prudhomme’s award, Frederic Schoelzel was named as the West Region “Player to Watch”. Schoelzel is currently the second-ranked player in the west region and No. 17 in Division II. Unlike the other schools mentioned, GCU doesn’t have tennis courts at their university so they play their home matches at the Paseo Racquet Center in Glendale which is owned and operated by the Prudhomme family. The team kicks off their 2012 season in Tucson on February 5th against Cal-Poly with their first home match in Glendale against BYU-Hawaii on the 8th.
For those tennis fans that have gotten the urge to go out and see some live matches after watching the Australian Open on television these past couple of weeks don’t forget about the local schools that need your support right here in the Valley.