Asheville -- WLOS - What started as a necessity has become a luxury for the UNC Asheville tennis program. Last year Oli Nolan and Henry Patten were playing in a tournament in Georgia, and as the only representatives of UNCA they were forced to play doubles together for the first time. It worked out pretty well: they won. "I think we found a good kind of relationship on court," remembered Nolan. "We bring a good energy and we both connect well." Patten agreed, adding. "We didn't take it too seriously. We took everything in stride, we tried to keep everything light-hearted, which was fun."
The fun has continued for the duo from England. Earlier this fall they won the 51st Southern Intercollegiate Championships, and this past weekend they captured the ITA Carolina Regional title. "For me it feels great to beat the top guys and prove to ourselves and to the team and to everyone else that we can compete with the top guys," mused Nolan. To win the championship the Bulldogs had to beat teams from UNC, NC State, and Clemson. "We went into the tournament feeling really confident," explained Patten. "We felt like we could beat anyone."
The dominating doubles team may not always take the court for UNC Asheville. Head coach Tom Hand is charged with putting the most well-balanced team on the court in order to secure victory, which may mean spreading out players to cast a wider net. "We both understand that we're here to help the team ultimately and if coach thinks helping the team means splitting us up to maybe win more matches than win one match for sure, then so be it," stated Patten.
They will get at least one more chance this fall to compete together. The win at the Carolina Regional Championship includes a ticket to the Oracle ITA Nationa Championship next month in Arizona. Patten competed in the event last year in the singles division. "It makes it a little bit more enjoyable for me that I get to go and have a laugh and play some tennis," he said of going this time around with teammate Nolan. "We're really looking forward to it." Nolan responded, "For me it'll be a completely new experience so I'm excited to go and see who I compare against the very top guys." So far doubles teams from Ohio State, Florida, Ole Miss, Baylor, Mississippi State, Georgia Gwinnett, Columbia, Oregon, and Belmont have also qualified. The tournament runs from November 7th-11th.