One of the best parts of traveling to the NCAA Championships is the opportunity to enjoy the local scenery and meet new people away from the tennis courts. Tonight, we were treated to some good ‘ole Southern hospitality about 15 minutes away from campus at the home of the Strickland’s, our host family in Athens.
Unbeknownst to me, as we knocked on the door, did I ever imagine I would have a reunion with an old friend and colleague. Carter Strickland, our host dad, used to cover my alma mater, Washington State, in the late 90′s as a sports writer for The Spokesman Review. The last time I saw him, it was about four years ago in the press box at Kyle Field as he covered the Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma football game for The Oklahoman in 2006. Right then, I knew we had hit the jackpot of host families and I know the team feels the same way.
After an amazing dinner spread, we were treated to homemade chocolate pie with fresh cut strawberries and whipped cream. Then, the fire pit was started up as the team enjoyed making homemade smores in one of the most beautiful outdoor settings I can imagine in a long time.
The Strickland’s have two sons, Owen and Pierce, who enjoyed playing soccer, basketball and football with the team. If we had a men’s soccer team at Texas A&M, Niall Angus (England), Alexis Klegou (France) and Alexey Grigorov (Russia) would surely be in the starting lineup for the Aggies.
Several other members of the team couldn’t shake away from the tennis bug and played some competitive matches of ping-pong, even some air hockey. Many thanks to the Strickland Family for making our trip in Athens memorable (we forgive you for being Longhorns LOL)!
These are the kind of moments that strengthen team unity and camaraderie. This is the closest-knit men’s tennis team I’ve been associated with in my four years in Aggieland. Coach Denton and Coach McKinley have done an incredible job of building a top 10 program with quality student-athletes. This team is truly special and has so much potential of leaving their mark as one of the greatest of all-time. BTHO BU!