Lehigh's new tennis courts, which feature the Mountain Hawk emblem, on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. The new courts were added outside of the existing tennis facility in the summer of 2015. (Erik Thomas/B&W Photo)

Donation allows for upgrade at Lehigh tennis courts

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A recent donation from a Lehigh alumnus has allowed for the transformation of the Ulrich tennis courts, bringing refurbished surfaces, repaired fencing and a grandstand to the Goodman Campus facility.

The donation by Ronald Ulrich, ’67, contributed to a budget of nearly $1 million to revamp the courts.

“The primary drive for the project was two part,” Director of Athletics Joe Sterrett said. “First, to create a sense of destination at the venue, and second, to create better views for parents of team members.”

Now the venue is significantly improved. Previously there were just five courts, which prevented all matches from being played at once. Having just five courts prolonged the matches and proved unfair to certain athletes, as some matches played later would be meaningless because the winning team would have already been determined, or later matches would not be played at all.

The biggest benefit the renovations on the courts provide is an improved sense of team pride.

“It gave players a sense of pride to be able to play on the courts and gives the program a whole new and enhanced identity,” said men’s and women’s tennis coach Wouter Hendrix.

The brown playing surface and enlarged Lehigh banners on the fence go a long way in developing a player’s pride in Lehigh tennis.

The renovated courts also serve as an improvement to the practice environment. The organization and planning of practice now runs more smoothly, as players can be split into two teams, one practicing on each side of the grandstand. This is critical for player development as the athletes can now work in groups of players with similar skills.

The new courts and grandstand have the potential to draw a much bigger fan base to support the team. Fans will be able to watch every match going on at once.

The team said the crowd can give Lehigh players motivation mid-match. It benefits not only the fans watching the games and the tennis players, but also serves as a way for Hendrix to observe all games simultaneously. This is beneficial because he can assess from the grandstand which match needs the most attention, and he can offer court-side advice.

This way, the actual game of tennis will be impacted. The old worn-out playing surface with cracks made for a less predictable flight path of the ball. If the ball hit a crack its bounce direction would be altered.

“The old courts were so worn-out that they were really fast,” said sophomore men’s tennis player Dylan Karchere-Sun in regards to the old surface.

With the new playing surface, the speed of the ball will be slowed down allowing for a better match.

The renovated facility will also advance recruitment of prospective Lehigh tennis players. Hendrix said he will now be able to show them one of the finest tennis faculties in the Northeast, raising the incentive for students to choose Lehigh.

A large majority of the money came from maintenance funds with donated money providing for additional courts and the grandstand. The official dedication of the courts occurred Oct. 3 during the Lehigh Invitational, the Hawks’ only event of the fall.

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