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Winning it All

Men's tennis doubles team earns ITA Cup national championship this fall

Tim Hammes and Santiago Rendon playing for the national championship

Tim Hammes (left) and Santiago Rendon won the ITA Cup national championship as a doubles team this fall. Photo by ITA

From The Ichabod - Winter 2024
By Jeremy Wangler

They may have been 800 miles away from Topeka, but Tim Hammes and Santiago Rendon felt at home as they defeated two teams from their region to win the ITA Cup national championship this fall. They were the men’s tennis doubles champions in the Division II tournament played in Mount Berry, Georgia, in October.

The win felt especially good after they hosted and lost in the ITA regional a month earlier, missing an automatic bid to the ITA Cup. The duo earned a wildcard bid and proved they belonged by winning Washburn’s first national championship in any sport since Madeline Hill won the ITA Cup women’s singles tournament in 2016.

After facing match point and elimination in the quarterfinal of the ITA Cup, Hammes and Rendon won in the tiebreaker and moved to the semifinal. The four remaining teams were all from the Central Region.

“We knew all of the teams and we'd seen and played them many times,” Hammes said. “We knew we would have a chance if we played well.”

“The biggest difference between Tim and Santi and their opponents is how fearless they were in the big moments,” said Kirby Ronning, head coach, men’s and women’s tennis. “When they got into pressure moments, they played freely and aggressively and went for it.”

The two didn’t lose a set in the final two matches of the tournament.

“I wanted it so much,” Rendon said. “When we started the run and realized we could win the tournament, I just wanted it more. We had confidence and we played very well, very aggressively in the key moments of the matches.”

Tim Hammes and Santiago Rendon pose with their trophies after winning the national championship

(Tim Hammes (left) and Santiago Rendon pose with their trophies after winning the national championship. Photo by ITA)

Ronning was busy coaching three players in singles and two doubles teams at the tournament. Match timing allowed him to be there for Hammes and Rendon during their championship run, but Ronning knew it was best to let them do their thing.

“There’s not a lot of coaching at that point,” he said. “It’s just giving them energy and helping them maintain their level. They know what they're good at and they're pretty good at dissecting what their opponents aren't necessarily good at.”

Kirby RonningRonning’s biggest coaching decision leading to the duo’s success may have come a year ago when he decided to pair them as a doubles team mid-season.

“We were looking at what might work and what might not work,” Ronning said. “Looking at what Tim and Santi do well, how they can complement each other and their chemistry as players, we put them together and they started winning a lot.”

The two went 19-4 last year as Washburn won the conference postseason tournament. They hosted and won a round of the NCAA Central Region tournament and advanced to the NCAA round of 16.

“Tim and I were very good friends, but we had to work at how we were going to understand each other on the court,” Rendon said. “Tim is a solid baseliner. I can move better at the net than he does. So, we try to complement each other and find the best position for both of us to win the points.”

The women’s team nearly mirrored the men’s success last year as they also won the MIAA postseason tournament and hosted and won a match in the NCAA Central Region tournament. They made it one step closer in the NCAA national tournament, advancing to the quarterfinals. This year, senior Maja Lung advanced to the ITA Cup semifinal, one round away from playing for a national championship.

“Our women know there's a target on their back,” Ronning said. “If we're going to be successful in the spring, it's going to be because we worked really hard throughout the year.”

Hammes and Rendon got a taste of winning it all this fall. They’ll have one more chance as a doubles team as Rendon graduates with a business degree this spring and Hammes will graduate with a business degree next year. They both hope to earn MBAs and be graduate assistant coaches at Washburn.

“In the moment, we were just really happy and smiling at each other and hugging each other,” Hammes said of the national championship. “I was overwhelmed because it felt a little bit unreal.”

The recent success can lead to even better things this spring for the men and women.

“Hopefully we're playing our best tennis in April at the conference tournament, peaking in the national tournament in May,” Ronning said.

Winter 2024 The Ichabod magazine cover with picture of the bell tower and snow fallen on campus

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