Local tennis standout's game moves to NCAA level

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Griswold - posted Thu., May. 24, 2012
Griswold native Brandon Roode helped drive the Nichols College tennis team to its first-ever NCAA tournament win. Courtesy photo by Richard Orr. - Contributed Photo

Moving up to college-level competition has been a big change for Griswold tennis standout Brandon Roode, but it’s one he revels in. “My game has really escalated through the year,” he said. “My serve, my movement all really came together around the end of the season.”

Roode, who plays for the Nichols College Bisons, helped his team achieve a school record: its first-ever NCAA tournament win in any sport. The Bison tennis team, appearing in the NCAA tournament for the first time, defeated Marywood University 5-0 but lost in the second round of competition to defending national champion Amherst. The Bisons’ season record stands at 18-4.

At the NCAA level, individual play is ended when the overall team result has been determined. In the meet against Amherst, Roode was playing Mark Kahan, the number three-ranked player in the country – and winning, 6-5, after three straight games on two services – when his set was abruptly ended by Amherst’s fifth win to clinch the match. Despite not being able to finish against his opponent, Roode wasn’t disappointed. “I felt, at that moment, that the whole year really paid off,” he said.

“He was playing out of his mind,” said Roode’s coach, Paul Brower, of that game. “The level of play was off the charts. He proved at the NCAA tournament that he can play with any number-one player in the country.”

Roode played both singles and first doubles this year, another change from high school. He and his doubles partner, senior Steve Carella, won their match against Marywood 8-5, but fell 8-0 against the region’s top-ranked doubles pair, Austin Chafetz and Luis Rattenhuber of Amherst, in the tournament’s second round.

Brower cited Roode’s enthusiasm and unfailingly positive attitude as pluses for the Bisons. “When you add a player of that caliber to a team that’s already strong, it makes all the difference in the world,” he said. “He’s an unfailingly positive human being, and that goes a long way when you walk out onto the court against Amherst.”

Roode said he’s not really keeping track of his own ranking. “I’m beating a higher level of player, and beating them easily,” he said. “I take it one match at a time, and things take care of themselves.”

A business major who’s minoring in marketing, Roode said that he quickly felt at home at Nichols, despite his usual aversion to change. “It’s refreshing to get a new mindset and a new personality” in a coach, he said. Brower, he added, “realizes that there’s a balance between academics and tennis, and he’s very realistic about the balance.” Roode will stay fresh over the summer by working at Mystic Indoor Tennis, giving clinics and private lessons, he said.

Roode’s presence on the team has not only ramped up the current level of play, but has also sparked interest in Nichols among other high-caliber high school tennis players, said Brower. Two solid freshman recruits should nicely fill the gap left by the departing seniors. “We’re better next year than this year. We’re definitely favorites to repeat the conference [championship] again next year,” he said.

Brower said he expects to play Roode again in first doubles as well as singles next season. “He has such a strong game, he needs to be up there,” he said.

Year-round training at the college level has forged strong connections among team members, said Roode. “I think that’s why we had so much success,” he said. “We’re always cheering each other on.” The team spent spring break in Puerto Rico together and has plans to compete together in some summer tournaments, including one at Connecticut College in New London, when the Roode family will host the team members.

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