Making the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III national tournament was a needed first step for an Illinois Tech men’s tennis program entering its third season this spring, coach Erik Scanlan says. Bursting through that barrier in May was a “breakthrough.” But Scanlan is focused on building upon that success as the program aims to triumph on the court and in the classroom.
“We’re working toward bigger and better things than just winning our conference and trying to make the national tournament,” says Scanlan, who has led the Scarlet Hawks men’s and women’s tennis programs since they began play in 2017–18. “That’s a step in the right direction, but that’s not why we get out of bed in the morning and what we’re trying to do with the program. What I was able to see, just growth- wise, from both players individually and from the team, I thought was phenomenal.”
The men’s tennis team finished the season unbeaten in Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference play, losing just four matches along the way. It clinched the first NCAA Division III national tournament berth for the Illinois Tech athletics department when it won the NACC tourney title on May 5 with identical 5-0 victories over Edgewood College and Concordia University Wisconsin, respectively. The Scarlet Hawks fell 5-1 to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in the first round of the national tournament on May 9.
“It’s an honor. It’s humbling in a way just to know that we were able to achieve it. We’re very honored to do it. We don’t look at it that we were first,” Scanlan says, adding: “Without the department, without the other coaches, without the support of everyone and the student body, we wouldn’t be where we are. We’re just the first of many, I’m sure of that.”