by Angela QUADRINI, Staff Writer
In April of 2015, Noah LeFevre, former athletic director at Manhattan College made the abrupt decision of discontinuing the women’s tennis team while adding women’s rowing as a Division 1 intercollegiate sport.
The news came as a shock to the tennis team, leaving many players upset.
Junior Gabby Leon was the first to hear the news after being called into a meeting with LeFevre and Amanda McEntire, former head coach of the tennis team.
“When I got the text about a meeting with them and I just knew it was either going to be really good or really bad news,” Leon said.
“Something in my stomach told me it was going to be something bad and it turned out to be.”
In the meeting, Leon describes LeFevre as being very friendly and polite. Based on their behavior, she figured something had to be wrong.
They finally broke the news telling her the team was being cut.
“I broke down. I just couldn’t believe it,” Leon said. “I remember that day like it was yesterday.”
Reasoning behind the sudden decision was based on factors such as budgeting and resource concerns, as well as inadequate facilities.
“When I look at where we are from a strategic or 40,000 foot perspective, there are a lot of things to consider,” LeFevre said in a statement to the Quadrangle in September of 2015. “A few other pieces are where we are from a facility; budget and resource; and number of enrolled student-athletes perspective. For me, at the end of the day, a large part of this had to do with facilities. … It was a decision made as we wanted to put our program in the best possible place to be successful.”
When the bad news was delivered to the women’s team, emotions were high. Many felt angry about the decision, not understanding why their team had to be cut in order to make room for a new one. Extreme sadness was a common emotion all the women felt in the meeting that afternoon.
“The saddest part of the discontinuation is not being able to play the sport I love with an awesome group of girls,” Shivani Patel, a sophomore and former member of the team said. “I’ve made such good friends with the girls on the team. I miss the bond and the sense of togetherness you get when being on a team.”
Since the end of the tennis program, McEntire has been promoted to Senior Associate Athletic Director. She also assisted James Foley, the head coach of women’s rowing, in jump-starting the rowing program.
“Discontinuing any sport – let alone one I coached for the past few years – was very difficult but the decision has been made,” McEntire said in an emailed statement. “It was a pleasure coaching such a dynamic group of women and I’m fortunate that my current position allows me to continue working with Manhattan College’s outstanding student-athletes on a daily basis.”
With Division 1 tennis no longer a part of their lives, Patel and Leon have had to make the transition from being students athletes to just regular students.
“It’s still kind of weird,” Patel said. “I had a routine of practice, classes, and games. I was constantly active, where as now I can’t find time to go to the gym. It was easier before because I had to go to workouts, so it was built into my schedule.”
Both women occupy the time they used to play tennis with other activities. Leon, who still has two years of NCAA eligibility, works on getting fit in hopes of playing tennis again in graduate school.
Patel has turned to engineering clubs around campus to help occupy her free time.
She is currently the media coordinator of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and starting next year, will also be president of the Construction Management Association of America.
As far as playing tennis, Leon and Patel try to get together and play games while at school.
Patel plays for a travel team back at home, while Leon gives hitting lessons at a country club she works at.
“There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think about it,” Leon said. “ I wish I at least knew it was going to be my last college match when we ended the season. I’ll never be able to play as a Jasper again, it’s still hard to process.”
The women of the tennis team have tried their best to move on. The sadness in their hearts may still be present, but their love for tennis is also as present as ever.