Tennis reunion shows promise for future by Bruce Brown
Tennis reunion shows promise for future
By Bruce Brown
Written for Athletic Network
April 28, 2013
Skipper Hunt and Carter Lomax still look like they could block out the sun as a doubles tandem rushing the net.
Gustavo Orellana is still active in the game, playing regularly and winning his fair share of matches.
James Boustany, Paul Griffith, Meg Cook and Ashley Rhoney are still teaching the finer points, and longtime coach Bill Bryan is on the verge of a new opportunity doing the same thing.
Doctors, lawyers, CPAs and others joined them to celebrate the UL Tennis Reunion, held in conjunction with the Sun Belt Conference Tournament at Cajun Courts.
The April 20 dinner at Lafayette's Petroleum Club gave former players and coaches the opportunity to re-live moments from as long as 60 years ago, as well as meeting the current Ragin' Cajun men's and women's teams tasked with carrying on a winning tradition.
It was the first such reunion for UL tennis, and numbers indicate it was a good start to more gatherings in the future.
Coaches Jerry Simmons and Gary Albertine provided insight into the climate of support in the Acadiana area that helped accelerate the growth of Cajun tennis in the modern era, as well as sharing anecdotes about their players.
Both made it clear that their time spent at then-USL made a lasting, positive impression even after they had moved on to further success elsewhere.
Simmons, who built national-caliber winners at LSU after leaving in 1982, was the youngest coach (at age 52) to be inducted into the collegiate hall of fame. He emphasized that the community was what made UL a success.
Albertine, who boasted All-Americans in Rhoney and Bret Garnett in addition to the school's first-ever NCAA team tournament berth, became successful in real estate in the Memphis area.
He, too, retains a fondness for the area after marrying a Cajun girl.
The evening was also spiced by a comprehensive slide presentation by recent Cajun Milou Israel that chronicled the history of the program.
One of the few things missing was greater numbers of UL women players, something sure to be cured with more reunions in the future.
Clearly, there were many bonds between teammates and their coaches that have stood the test of time. Stories of past exploits flowed freely.
There was also the chance to look ahead, as the prospect of improved tennis facilities in the near future was detailed for the group.
And, further down the road, Lomax swore that his 14-year-old daughter has the potential to be every bit as good as he was. Recruiters are already lining up. Surely there would be an opening in the women's program in a few years, if she is so inclined.
Early in a 37-year career with The Lafayette Advertiser, it was my happy duty to cover Cajun tennis, to try to convey some of that excitement to our readers. It was a heady time for the game and for the program.
It was a privilege, then, to be included in the reunion activities and to share a memory or two with those who made my job so enjoyable.
Good memories. Good company. Good vibrations.Surely there is another tennis reunion in the near future.
Athletic Network Footnote:
Please click here http://www.athleticnetwork.net/site.php?pageID=3482 for the 2013 Tennis Reunion Page.