UCF's Racquetball Club. Rachel Stuart, Central Florida Future
For members of the UCF Racquetball Club, its Saturday tournament at UCF’s Recreation and Wellness Center was slightly less competitive than the club’s March trip to Tempe, Arizona, where they took home five medals in the 2015 National Intercollegiate Championships.
But it was a chance to fine-tune their skills in a competitive atmosphere, while still having a bit of fun.
Although the 30-participant, single-day tournament was smaller than the two collegiate events the club holds each year, it gave members a chance to keep their game in its groove.
They won two of the four divisions and even beat the No. 2 player in Florida singles, Winter Springs native Andres Ramirez.
“It’s fun playing against people like that,” junior industrial engineering major Robert Koontz said. “He got me on the stamina part. He didn’t let me take a break, so he pushed the pace really hard.”
The six members who made the trip to Arizona State University for nationals had the opportunity to play with people of the same caliber and higher, and some members soaked in the opportunity to cross paths with the talented players.
“I got to meet the top players, I played with them, I talked to them, I got to know them and the only thing I wish is that I would love to have those kind of players always around,” Koontz said. “Anytime they stop in town, now I know them.”
This year was the fourth out of the past five years that the team has made it to nationals, and members took home five medals as the team was ranked No. 9 out of 30 universities at the tournament, said club president Phillip Carter.
“To see my fellow club members come off those courts with a medal, is just, there’s no other feeling in the world. It’s the most amazing thing,” Carter said. “It really puts us in a place where we can feel proud of being part of the UCF community and representing UCF, not just on the state but on the national level.
“It shows that a lot of hard work and determination really does pay off.”
Carter said that one medal was earned in a way that was a bit tougher than usual: Greg Felt’s gold medal in doubles competition with teammate Alexander Nagel.
During the second game of the best-of-three match for the gold medal, the graduate-level mechanical engineering major’s aggressive playing style came back to bite him as he took a swing from his opponent’s racquet straight to his right elbow.
“Right in the funny bone, it cracked me pretty hard. This was a big guy,” Felt said. “It looked like I had a baseball in my elbow.”
That didn’t deter him from competing, though.
He had the medic wrap up his playing arm and jumped back on the court with his partner to play left handed. Even though he had never played left handed in his life, Felt made the most of it and eventually went on to make a few key plays that shifted momentum and helped him to a gold medal.
“I shouldn’t have been able to get to it. But I saw it, and I dove. With my left hand, I dove and I reached out, and I hit the ball and I rolled it out,” he said. “After that, everyone went crazy again, and it was over from there. We got in their heads, and they knew it was over.”
Players don’t need the competitiveness and toughness that Felt displayed, though. The coed club welcomes players of all skills and backgrounds.
“The first time I played, I was absolutely awful. And I stood along the side of the court the whole time, which is not a safe place to stand,” said Kim Winarski, a double major in English literature and public administration. “I’m very proud to wear our UCF racquetball club jersey.”
Jarrod Heil is the Sports Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @JHeil11 or email him at JarrodH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.