The University of Alabama Adapted Athletics wheelchair tennis team earned its seventh consecutive national championship on May 20 defeating Auburn University in both doubles and singles matches.
UA’s Nate Hunter and Thomas Venos defeated Auburn’s Gabe Puthoff and Jake Eastwood in doubles action before the singles matches where Hunter defeated Eastwood 7-5 in his first set. Venos defeated Puthoff in his singles match, negating the need for Hunter’s second set and earning UA’s eighth national title in program history.
The matchup between Alabama and Auburn was held at the United States Tennis Association National Campus in Orlando simultaneously with the Division I, II and III National Championships.
“The ultimate win was the crowd crossover,” said Alabama Head Coach Evan Enquist. “The collegiate environment is far different than the USTA kind of vibe. It’s loud, there’s music, fans chanting for their teams. I can’t tell you how many ‘Roll Tide’s I got here on the USTA campus.”
New this year was having the national qualifier in April when in previous years that is when the national champion was crowned. That was only one aspect of the season that made it memorable for Alabama.
“This is Shelby Baron’s last season with us. She played here for five years and then came on as assistant coach,” said Enquist. “Thomas has been a huge competitor for us so it’s been unique in that aspect as well – a great sendoff for them.”
“It was such a blast playing for another national championship. Both teams played hard and well, battling till the end,” said Hunter, a junior. “It was incredible to play at the same time as the D1 women’s championship. Having that atmosphere was intense!”
Recent UA graduate and 2023 wheelchair tennis singles national champion Thomas Venos said the feeling has been like no other in his time at UA.
“This was one of the best finals to date for me. As we got to play against our in-state rivals Auburn and we played alongside the NCAA Division I women’s final so the crowd was massive and loud, which I always enjoy,” he said.
“In doubles we only lost one game and then in my singles I gave my opponent the business and beat him 6-0, 6-0 to secure the title for the Tide. It was a great weekend all around that I will remember forever.”
Sophomore Max Barbier agreed this team was always working toward a national title and making this season something special.
“I think this is something we all have worked really hard for,” he said. “All year we have been talking about keeping the national title here in Tuscaloosa and I think we really set the bar for what the standard here is at The University of Alabama.”
Jennifer Brady, UA Strategic Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org