Past, present tennis athletes scrimmage during Alumni Weekend

Parker Valentine, Tennis Reporter

College stories, tennis advice and tons of respect and admiration were shared at Eastern’s Alumni Weekend for the Panther tennis teams.

Saturday started with athletes from the current Eastern men’s and women’s tennis teams taking on alumni. The Darling Courts were alive all morning with conversations between generations past and present.

One phrase that reigned supreme from the alumni was to enjoy these four years, because they are some of the best of your life and they go by very quickly.

Nostalgic athletes got to reminisce on their playing days as well as watch the new generation carry on the Panther torch.

“I remember cramping on these courts. I remember going crazy in the field house; I remember running laps with the track team.” 2004 graduate CJ Weber said.

“One thing that I think is very cool about the alumni event is when I was playing, there was a gentleman by the name of Ron Easter, and he always watched me while I was playing here. I looked into the crowd during this alumni event, and he’s sitting there on the bleachers watching me. That was a very neat experience, and it made me feel like I was in college again,” Weber said.

Weber played at Eastern from 2001 to 2004 and was a graduate coaching assistant in 2005. He is now head coach for the men’s tennis program at Florida Gulf Coast. Ron Easter is another Eastern alumnus that played tennis here from 1977 to 1980.

Tammie Byers was a classmate of Ron Easter at Eastern. Byers played tennis for the Panthers from 1978 to 1982 and has marveled at how far Panther tennis and women’s athletics has come since her departure.

“A huge difference for tennis now is the [Darling] Courts,” Byers said. “We played on four courts that were over by the Triad, and you had to kick people off from the dorms just to have practice and play our matches.”

“I was here on the early end of the women’s sports and to see how far all of the women’s sports have come, and the opportunities these young women have is just awesome,” Byers said.

Byers said she never had an event like Alumni Weekend when she was an athlete at Eastern.

Getting this experience multiple times, the senior class knows how important this opportunity is and is very appreciative.

“It means a lot. Even though they are older, we are still good friends with them,” redshirt senior Jacob Wendell said.

“We are all just one big tennis family; … we … get to look forward to this event every year,” Kelly Iden said.

The coaches also agree that this event is important for both alums and the student athletes.

“It’s a lot of fun for everybody. It’s great for the players to see where the alums now and to see what they are doing. Hopefully we can continue to build the amount of alums that will come back in the future,” women’s coach Emily Wang said. “Any time anyone graduates we want them to come back and participate as much as they can.”

“If we give them the experience at Eastern during their four years here that you see some of the alums have had, I don’t think it will take much stress on the subject because they will really want to come back.” men’s coach Sam Kercheval said.

From the freshmen all the way to the seniors, everyone agreed that they will be back to visit after they graduate.

Parker Valentine can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]