Ceres High School grad Nolan McCaig had to find another college to play tennis at after Southern Utah University cut its men’s program this past summer due to funding issues related to the coronavirus pandemic.
McCaig is supposed to start attending in-person classes and practices at UC Riverside in January.
The 2020-21 school year got underway on Sept. 28 with distance learning.
UC Riverside hasn’t posted an updated roster and schedule for men’s tennis on its athletic website while uncertainty from COVID-19 persists. The university discussed eliminating all 15 of its athletic programs on Sept. 2 because of financial hardship. More than 300 student-athletes would be impacted if talks turned into reality.
“We’ll hear within the next couple weeks if we’re allowed to come back during the winter quarter,” said McCaig, a 2017 CHS grad who earned a partial scholarship to the NCAA Division-I school. “Everything is looking good right now. I haven’t heard anything about the program being canceled. I’m super excited. I’ve missed the college experience, especially competing. I have high hopes for this team. That pushes me to work harder.”
Nolan and his younger brother Coby have been training together six days a week at Grace Davis High School in Modesto to prepare for their upcoming tennis seasons.
Coby is a sophomore at the University of the Pacific in Stockton.
“I have a routine,” Nolan said. “I have online classes from 9 in the morning to 1 in the afternoon. After that, I practice with my brother. We’ve always had a close relationship. Being able to work together is really cool. We’re out there to get each other better. There are some days when it gets a little heated. Some points go a little longer. We’re both super competitive.”
McCaig is attending his third college in four years.
McCaig transferred from Southern Utah University, which had its 2020 season cut short this past spring due to the coronavirus pandemic.
McCaig compiled a 5-3 record while splitting playing time at No. 2 and 3 doubles.
He finished 2-6 against singles competition. He competed at No. 2 singles five times and No. 3 singles three times.
It marked the first time McCaig competed at the Division-I level.
“I had to raise my level of play,” he said. “The altitude was the biggest challenge. Because of the high altitude, you have to use specialized balls. A lot of the points are shorter. You get a lot of points off your serve. I had to come to the net more. I focused on serving and volleying.”
UC Riverside posted a 12-5 overall record during the 2019-20 COVID-19 shortened campaign.
The Highlanders won their final eight matches.
McCaig moved from Utah to California in April.
He found out Southern Utah was eliminating its men’s tennis program in June.
“Having to stop playing tennis was a big adjustment,” McCaig said. “I didn’t know what to do with my time. A lot of the parks and courts (in Modesto) were locked up. I couldn’t hit anywhere. I worked out daily in my backyard.”
McCaig and all NCAA Division-I student-athletes impacted by the coronavirus last spring were granted an extra year of eligibility.
“If I have to take more credits (to graduate), I’ll use it and play another year of tennis,” said McCaig, a criminal justice major.