October 01, 2012
Northampton Community College's week-long anniversary celebration began on Sunday with the President's Tennis Challenge - a chance for alumni and students to meet the College's new president while playing a sport he has enjoyed since college.
Decked out in Northampton colors and an NCC cap, President Erickson arrived at the courts twenty minutes early to warm up. His strong strokes in hitting with Gary Bolash'84, the top singles player in his day, impressed the players and their fans. So did his consistency. Rarely did he hit a ball out of bounds or into the net.
"He's good player," said Joel Aranda, a computer maintenance major who hopes to make the tennis team this year.
"I don't see any weaknesses," agreed his brother Eduardo, a first year student who also plans to try out for the team.
Matt Crouse was warming up on the court next to the president. A business management major who won the Pennsylvania Collegiate Athletic Association singles championships before graduating from NCC last spring, Crouse had been chosen to play an exhibition match with the president later in the afternoon.
"Do you think you can beat him?" a reporter asked. Crouse chuckled. "I'm thinking if I stay tough and hit to his backhand, I'll have a shot."
With rain threatening, Jack Masters, now in his 35th year as NCC's tennis coach, gathered the players together. Asked by the staff if he needed a microphone, he quipped, "I don't need a mic. I've been yelling at [these players] a long time."
But today there would be no yelling, Masters assured them. "We're here to hit some balls, meet the president and have a fun day playing tennis."
A round robin gave everyone a chance to volley with the president, and a rain delay gave them a chance to enjoy salsa, chips and other refreshments provided by the NCC Alumni Association.
Despite some lingering sprinkles, play resumed with the president and Megan Groh '09 taking on Eden Fimiano and Mark Pugliese '09 in a set of doubles. The president thanked Masters for giving him such a good partner as he and the former Pennsylvania Collegiate Athletic Association singles and doubles champ coasted to an easy win over their opponents. The Puglieses didn't mind at all. The newlyweds were glad for the chance to meet the president and too much in love to care about the score. They'd met as students and were married last summer.
The president had no time to rest. He and Crouse started off strong in the singles exhibition, with the president winning the first point. Then he pulled a hamstring muscle. Displaying the good judgment one would hope for in a president, rather than risk having to go through the rest of the 45th anniversary week festivities on crutches, he conceded the match, but gamely stayed to talk with players and fans while an attentive athletic staff applied ice to the injury.
Students and alumni played on. In addition to the athletes mentioned above, the formidable group included Billy Lahouchak, an alumnus who went on to teach and coach at Notre Dame High School; Jamie Leisure and Joel Maynard, both members of last year's undefeated team; Nicole Sharga and Hannah Thomas who won last year's PCAA doubles championship and never lost a match; and Ashley Gildner, Xiana Fontno and Lucia Montes, all of whom will be trying out for this year's team. Also on hand to cheer them on were Ashley Bennett '10 who won the state championship in doubles with Megan Groh and Amy Yeager Morgan '03, a former state champion and 2012 inductee into the NCC Athletic Hall of Fame.
See them all in this photo gallery.
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