Nolan McCaig didn’t plan on playing college tennis in his home state but transferred to a school in California due to circumstances out of his control.
The 2017 Ceres High School grad joined UC Riverside’s program after Southern Utah University cut its men’s team following McCaig’s junior year due to financial challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
McCaig wrapped up his two-year athletic career with the NCAA Division-I Highlanders this past spring.
“This is where I belonged,” he said. “I felt comfortable here. I really enjoyed the experience. Being back in California and playing college tennis is something I always wanted to do.”
McCaig posted a 3-9 record in singles play during his final season at UC Riverside.
He finished 1-3 at No. 1 singles and 2-6 at No. 2 singles.
“I got COVID (early in the season) and was out for a week and a half,” said McCaig, who dropped to No. 2 singles after returning to the lineup. “It was tough coming back. My cardio wasn’t the same. I did alright. I definitely could have done better.”
McCaig also logged playing time on UC Riverside’s No. 1 and 2 doubles team.
McCaig, who partnered with three different players, had a 6-8 mark.
McCaig and Daniel Velek won six of their 10 matches.
McCaig suited up for three different college tennis teams in five years.
“The easy route would have been to stay at Division-II,” he said. “But I wanted to challenge myself. My level of play rose because of the competition. At the Division-I level, there are no easy matches. It becomes less about skill and more about the style of play of your opponent. I developed a different part of my game at each school.”
McCaig compiled a 5-3 record while splitting playing time at No. 2 and 3 doubles during Division-I Southern Utah’s COVID-shortened 2020 season.
He finished 2-6 against singles competition. He competed at No. 2 singles five times and No. 3 singles three times.
McCaig was a two-year standout at Midwestern State University-Texas (2019, 2018).
He helped the Mustangs secure back-to-back berths to the NCAA Division-II Championship Tournament. Midwestern State also won a pair of Lone Star Conference Tournament titles. The Mustangs had a combined record of 42-12.
McCaig and No. 1 doubles partner Dillon Pineda were named to the LSC First Team for the second year in a row in 2019. The duo amassed an 18-4 record.
McCaig had a 15-9 mark in singles play.
McCaig won the 2018 LSC Freshman of the Year award.
He posted a 16-6 record at singles.
He garnered LSC honorable-mention accolades.
McCaig and Pineda earned first-team, all-conference honors for their outstanding play in doubles.
McCaig and Pineda amassed a 16-9 record. Three of their victories came against nationally-ranked opponents.
McCaig graduated from UC Riverside this past spring.
He earned a degree in sociology.
“It’s a challenge for sure,” said McCaig while talking about life as a Division-I student athlete. “I don’t regret doing it. It helped prepare me for my future life. It wasn’t easy. I surprised myself in some areas. But I also believed in myself. Right now, I’m still weighing my options. I have the opportunity to become the assistant coach for UC Riverside in the fall or be the head pro at an academy for kids in Berkeley. I still have so much to offer to the sport with my knowledge.”
McCaig will also continue to play tennis.
“I’d like to attempt to play doubles professionally with my younger brother (Coby),” he said.
Coby appeared in 19 matches with the University of the Pacific men’s team in 2022. He’ll graduate from college in 2023.
Nolan tops Ceres High’s list of greatest tennis players.
Seeded first, McCaig dominated all three of his opponents on his way to capturing the title at the 2017 Sac-Joaquin Section Division-II Individual Singles Championships.
McCaig defeated River Valley’s Luvdeep Bal 6-3, 6-2 in the finals.
He also collected victories against Oakmont’s Marshall Comia (6-1, 6-1) and Laguna Creek’s Henry Huang (6-2, 6-2).
The experience of finishing in the top four three times-including second twice-at the section tournament fueled Nolan’s desire to reach the pinnacle of his sport.
McCaig won all 23 of his matches during his senior year
He claimed his fourth consecutive WAC singles crown.
Nolan was voted conference MVP for the fourth consecutive year.
McCaig’s career record while starring at No. 1 singles was 100-4.
He had a perfect 63-0 mark against WAC opponents.
McCaig led Ceres High to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III crown in 2015.
The Bulldogs also claimed three WAC titles and participated in the playoffs four times.
Ceres High (14-1) placed first in conference play with a near-perfect record in 2017.
“I worked hard to achieve my goals,” McCaig said. “None of it would have been possible without all the hard work I put in and the support group of my parents and little brother.”