WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- The Whitman College men's tennis team has had a spring to remember, stroking its way to a second consecutive undefeated Northwest Conference (NWC) regular season and a No. 19 national ranking in NCAA Division III.
With a deep and talented roster, the 20-man squad has collected good memories by the bushel, often splitting into two groups to play multiple matches on the same day. Victories have included 12 NWC shutouts, upsets of an NCAA Division I opponent and a perennial NAIA national powerhouse, and a split of four matches against other nationally ranked Division III teams during a Spring Break trip to southern California.
That track record has Whitman brimming with confidence as it takes a 20-9 season record and the No. 1 seed into the NWC championship tournament this Friday and Saturday at the Yakima (Wash.) Tennis Club.
But when it comes to fond memories, Justin Hayashi and several of his teammates will also remember the second week of their Spring Break, when they traveled to Vancouver, B.C., to give a free tennis camp for children ages seven to 15.
The camp was held March 18-20 at the Strathcona Community Centre, which serves urban neighborhood families on the less privileged east side of Vancouver. It attracted about 40 youngsters, most of them between the ages of seven and nine.
"Most of the kids had never played tennis before, so our goal was to run a tennis camp where the kids could try something new, receive some tennis coaching, and most importantly, have fun," Hayashi says.
Hayashi, a junior team captain from Kirkland, Wash., was just a little surprised by the response. "We were concerned it would be a difficult task to keep them all attentive, but it was quite easy because they were all so intrigued and excited about playing," he says. "The kids all loved it and developed emotional attachments to many of our players in just the few days we were there."
One of Hayashi's favorites was Michael, a seven-year-old. "We struck up a friendship bond," he says. "A lot of the kids were outgoing, playful and endearing. It was easy to form attachments."
In addition to Hayashi, the Whitman contingent included the team's four Canadians - sophomores Jasper Follows, Thomas Roston and Nadeem Kassam, and freshman Etienne Moshevich. All four are from the Vancouver/Richmond area.
Other players making the community service trip were sophomores Jake Cappel (River Forest, Ill.) and David Deming (Brush Prairie, Wash.) and freshman Matt Goldfogel (Bellingham, Wash.). Assistant coach Steven Ly and Phalkun Mam, two former standout players who graduated last May, rounded out the group.
In organizing the trip and tennis camp, Hayashi found sponsors in Tennis BC, the governing body for tennis in British Columbia, and HEAD, a global manufacturer of tennis and other sporting equipment. "We also received very generous support from Jake Cappel's father (Jeff Cappel)," Hayashi says, and the Whitman athletics department paid for van transportation.
"When possible, we're happy to assist our student-athletes as they give back to their home communities," Whitman athletics director Dean Snider says.
Prior to the trip, Hayashi and his teammates also did some on-campus fundraising, mostly through a "Tuck In for $5" promotion. "Students hired us to `tuck in' their friends at bedtime," he says. "We basically went to rooms to read them a Dr. Seuss book and sing them a lullaby."
Hayashi, a first-generation tennis player, received his own introduction to tennis at age 13, and it was those early experiences that motivated him to organize his Spring Break trip and tennis camp.
As a young player who showed promise but couldn't afford expensive lessons, Hayashi received a tennis scholarship from Seattle's Central Park Tennis Club. That scholarship paid for lessons until he graduated from Lakeside School. As part of that scholarship, as he grew more accomplished on the courts, he also gave lessons to younger players.
"Tennis has meant a lot to me and has brought me countless memories and wonderful opportunities," Hayashi says. "I wanted to give other children the same opportunity I had, even if it was just for a few days at our camp."
Hayashi, who is majoring in both Asian Studies and sociology (with a minor in Chinese and Japanese), hopes to spend this summer in New York City, interning in the financial sector or in the marketing/public relations field. His post-Whitman plans are focused on law school or work in international business.