On March 18, the Mills College tennis team flew to Hawaii to spend their spring break competing against four colleges with Division II tennis teams.
The team played one game per day and competed against four Division II teams, including BYU Hawaii, the number one ranked Division II team in the nation, and BYU Pacific, which is ranked number five.
Head Tennis Coach Tony Canedo enjoyed watching the team play, even though the Division II teams were a challenge for Mills’ Division III team.
“For those we were competitive with, we were very competitive,” Canedo said. “It was really fun to see us dig in.”
The Mills tennis team, unlike some of the teams, does not have a Division III conference. There are only two Division III schools in Northern California, Mills and UC Santa Cruz, so the team usually plays Division II teams to stay local. Canedo believes that this challenge brings the team closer.
“There’s good and bad to it. One is you’re running uphill,” Canedo said. “I think for us, there’s more togetherness going into the individual matches, everyone goes into battle together. I think for us, it helps us recognize that we are competitive.”
The tennis team always travels during spring break, but this is the first time they went to Hawaii.
Canedo loves to travel with the team, and especially enjoys the flight out.
“My favorite part is always the flight out,” Canedo said. “It’s like when you first step onto the court against an opponent, it’s probably the most exciting time of the match. I always like when we take off for a trip.”
Tennis team member Rebeca Montaño (pronouns: they/ them/ theirs) feels lucky to be a part of the tennis team and that they had the privilege to travel to Hawaii for free. The tennis team has the largest endowment, which allows the team to travel as much as they do.
“I don’t think any other sport has the type of elitism that tennis has,” Montaño said.
Team member Dana Culpepper is also aware of the class influences involved in tennis.
“First of all, tennis rackets are really expensive. Also, access to nice courts is a very country club thing. In other experiences, people who play tennis tend to be from a higher income level,” Culpepper said. “It’s just something that I’ve noticed.”
While traveling, the tennis team tries to stay in Airbnbs rather than hotels. Canedo prefers it because it provides a more communal setting, and cooking together saves more money than going out to eat. Canedo witnessed the team bond during the trip.
“The great thing is when you’re in close quarters, you hear the laughter and you hear the conversation,” Canedo said. “We get that right way on the team, because we’re a small unit so they don’t really break off. The personality is really shaped by who’s on the team that year, and this year it has been exceptional for the team getting together.”
Montaño enjoyed bonding with their teammates while in Hawaii, despite the challenging games.
“Regardless of the scores, we always say that on every trip we get closer to our teammates,” Montaño said. “Not only are there great pictures, but there’s great memories.”
Montaño had a difficult time leaving home and moving to Mills. The tennis team made Montaño feel more at home at Mills, and like they were a part of a community.
“I had to get closer to my teammates so that forced community building is actually what made the difference for making Mills a home to me,” Montaño said. “I feel like I’m part of the Mills community and that has made Mills much easier to navigate.”
Although the team is constantly challenged while playing Division II teams, the score is not the most important thing to Montaño .
“I definitely think that the teammate interactions and the teammate community building is more important than the eventual game scores,” Montaño said.