Men’s tennis joins the NJAC

    UW-Eau Claire tennis finally has a home conference after 23 years

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    The UW-Eau Claire men’s tennis team will join the NJAC beginning in 2019-2020 academic school year

    The UW-Eau Claire men’s tennis team has finally found an affiliate conference after 23 seasons of strictly non-conference match play, according to a press release by the New Jersey Athletic Conference.

    The men’s team will join the NJAC along with UW-Whitewater and UW-La Crosse beginning in 2019-2020 academic school year.

    “The members of the NJAC are very pleased to welcome each of the new affiliate members,” said Susan Cole, the chair of the NJAC presidents board. “We are certain that their addition to the conference will enhance the athletic and competition opportunities for both our student athletes and theirs.”

    The NJAC has just recently reinstated the men’s tennis back into its conference after a 21-year hiatus due to lack of institutional sponsorship. The sport is making a comeback into the conference because of new league policy rules.

    “It’s been a long time coming,” Thomas Gillman, head coach of the men’s tennis team, said. “It takes a creative person in our athletic director to figure out something like this.”

    Men’s tennis was discontinued from the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 1996 due to a shortage in funding, leaving many UW System schools without a conference.

    “It’s weird not playing in a set conference,” Zach Jansen, a third-year athlete, said. “There’s no consistency with opposing teams.”

    Aside from the grievance of a consistent schedule, UW-Eau Claire has not been able to compete for a conference championship since the sport was discontinued from the WIAC in 1996. Now that the team has joined the NJAC, it has the capability to do just that.

    “We believe there is real value in terms of being a member of our conference, including, but not limited to, the ability to compete for our conference championship,” Terry Small, the NJAC commissioner, said.

    UW-Eau Claire has been actively searching for an affiliate conference for years, but have failed to find one that is close in proximity, Jansen said.

    “Most conferences that we could have joined would be in Illinois area, and it would be tough to travel that far every week,” Jansen said.

    Not only will UW-Eau Claire have an opportunity to compete for a conference championship, but being in a conference gives the team a higher chance of receiving a bid to the national tournament.

    “Independent teams only receive one to two bids every year, so it was really hard for us to get one of those bids,” Gillman said. “Being in the NJAC will give us a much higher chance of getting a bid to nationals.”

    The NJAC is split into two divisions, with the west division comprised of Ramapo College, Rutgers University-Camden, Rutgers University-Newark and The College of New Jersey. The east division contains UW-Eau Claire, UW-Whitewater, UW-Lacrosse and The State University of New York College-Oneonta.

    The divisional winners will meet in the conference championships for the first time on April 25, 2020, at the east division’s home courts.

    Alex can be reached at [email protected].