By Wesley Wilcox | firstname.lastname@example.org
Our town. Our team.
That is the phrase that describes the relationship the city of St. Augustine has with Flagler College Athletics. Being an NCAA Division II school in the Peach Belt Conference, one of the most competitive conferences in the nation, it is important to have support from your town.
Flagler College Tennis every year takes part in a handful of fundraisers around St. Johns County where the citizens of St. Augustine get the chance to interact with the players who will be representing the crimson and gold for the upcoming season. In Coach Thomas Hipp’s second year at the helm of the program, the teams have gone to Harbour Island Tennis Center on Anastasia Island.
This year was different than the last with the inclusion of eight new players amongs the men’s and women’s teams — Felicitas Runkel, Kelly Burge, Laura Kelly, Lukas Storck, Alex Rothman, Konstantin Dustmann, Lennart Lueneberg and Kevin Gonzalez — all of whom took part in this fund-raiser for Flagler Tennis for the first time. The event raised $7,250.
The weekend of Oct. 16-17 consisted of a Friday night get together and social with members of the tennis center, as players go through drills for the members to get an idea of who to bid on as a partner for the weekend. This unique experience is different than the normal fund-raiser though. This format allows members and locals of St. Augustine to bid on men’s and women’s tennis players for the chance to partner up with one of the Saints. Following the team drills, dinner is served and the socializing begins. When the talking concluded and dinner was over, the names of the highest bidders are announced as the tournament begins bright and early Saturday morning.
The Saturday festivities began with breakfast between the players and their partners. The tournament format allows members and Saints to play twenty minutes or to win four games total to when the match. The winners of each bracket at the end of the tournament are the teams with the most games total.
Match play ran from bright and early Saturday morning into the early afternoon as the Saints got the chance to play alongside local residents, and even coach Thomas Hipp and Rodrigo Puebla got in on the action as they too partnered up with members of the tennis center.
The turn out for this year’s fund-raiser topped the previous one in 2014 as the Saints raised more than they had the previous year. Having a following of St. Johns residents will be huge going forward for this team after Flagler College Athletic Director Jud Damon announced before the 2015-16 school year that Saint Johns residents could attend all athletic events for free with proof of residence.
Going into this spring of 2016, the Saints welcome a handful of new faces from a wide range of continents across the world. The women look to capitalize on their success last year by reaching the NCAA tournament before falling to Armstrong State in the regional final just one win shy of advancing to the national championship. The men look to find their identity as a crop of young talent look to put Flagler College Men’s Tennis back on the map, and to put everyone in the Peach Belt Conference on notice under Thomas Hipp’s second season at the helm.