April 3, 2009
The Santa Clara men's tennis team has spent the week preparing for its final two regular season home matches versus Sonoma State on Apr. 4, and West Coast Conference rival Loyola Marymount on Senior Day, Apr. 5.
SantaClaraBroncos.com had the chance to sit down with Bronco seniors Kenzo Hirakawa-Wong, Charlie Burke, and John Iwanski to talk about their years as a Santa Clara student-athlete, their thoughts on their senior season, and plans beyond the confines of the Mission Campus.
SantaClaraBroncos.com: What are three words that best describe your years as a Santa Clara student-athlete?
John Iwanski: Pride, dedication, and balance
Charlie Burke: Tradition, Pride, and Excellence
Kenzo Hirakawa-Wong: Two words - Sacrifice and Exciting
SCB.com: Do you have a favorite memory of playing for this team?
CB: Last Spring I clinched the doubles point against Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament and our team rushed the court. It was a great memory.
KHW: Yes, it was during my Junior season against Gonzaga. The match had been delayed due to rain and then finally moved to an indoor facility. Because of that, both coaches agreed to play singles first. After the singles had been played the team match score was tied at 3-3 all. The match was all left up to the doubles point. Gonzaga won at number three doubles, and we had won at one doubles. It was left up to me and my partner at number two doubles. Unfortunately, we were down 7-4 a double break, and several match points. Somehow on every match point we came up with big shots. Our adrenaline was running so hard it felt as if we couldn't miss a shot. After, we had won the match our teammates charged the courts. In all of my 14 years of playing tennis across the nation and around the world I had never felt such a feeling. That is something I will never forget.
SCB.com: What do you think will be going through your head during Sunday's Senior Day match versus LMU?
JI: Just like any other match I am going to play to win and just remember how blessed I am to be playing for Santa Clara and to be out there with Kenzo and Charles who have shared all of the highs and lows with me over the last two seasons
CB: The culmination of all the hard work and dedication to the sport that I have put in over the years. To have my family and friends there will be a very special feeling.
KHW: My first thought will be for our team to win. Then I will probably realize that it will be the last time that I will play a home match for Santa Clara University.
SCB.com: Why did you decide to go to Santa Clara?
JI: It's simply an outstanding university and I wanted to be in the Bay Area where I have a great deal of extended family. The school's Jesuit tradition was also something that I looked for in my college choice.
CB: Because of the tradition and academic excellence that only a great school like SCU could provide.
KHW: I decided to go to Santa Clara because of the beautiful campus, the location, and I had very close friends who were on the team.
SCB.com: What do expect from the end of the regular season and as you head into the WCC tournament.
JI: I expect this team to come together and refocus itself on accomplishing team goals of getting a good seed in the tournament by beating conference rivals LMU at home and USF at the Olympic club. Both teams slipped past us last season and if we keep our focus we can definitely reassert ourselves as a contender going into conference.
CB: I expect us to enter the tournament with a toughness that has developed over the course of the season. I think that we will play our best ball and be dangerous entering the tournament whether teams are ready for us or not.
KHW: For our team to keep improving and during WCC's hope that we can get a big upset.
SCB.com: Who is one player you look up to most or try to model your game after?
JI: I would say Rafael Nadal simply because he is left-handed and uses his athleticism as a weapon against players who have bigger strokes and serves. I also respect his fearlessness on the court, he simply does not get intimidated by anyone. He is also the one player on tour who takes pride in being able to play and win five set matches hitting 20-30 ball rallies the whole way through.
CB: Andre Agassi, because of his tireless work ethic off the court and the love of the game he plays with on it.
KHW: My favorite player is Roger Federer. He is so classy and gracious while on court. He makes the game look so easy, he is "poetry in motion."
SCB.com: If you couldn't play tennis, what would the next best thing be?
JI: I have always enjoyed playing baseball but in terms of pure passion I would have loved to play football and have a great deal of fun playing with my roommates who once the season is over we will try and go back and win another intramural championship.
CB: I have always enjoyed golf so I think I would work on my handicap and try to drop it a couple of strokes.
KHW: I'd be running track, I held the All-city mile time in San Francisco in middle school.
SCB.com: What advice would you give to the underclassmen on your team?
JI: Take pride in the university and people you play for and remember the trials and tribulations of those who came before you. Dedicate yourself to being respectful, hard working, and passionate on and off the court. Most of all be a good teammate and remember that people will remember you not just for your results but for your character.
CB: Just to enjoy the rest of their time playing for the team it goes by very quick and you love every minute of it.
KHW: You can be anything you want to be. But you have to work hard for it. Nothing in life is free or easy.
SCB.com: Finally, any plans after SCU?
JI: I want to focus on graduating with good marks in the short term but after that I am planning to study for the LSATS over the summer in the hopes of getting into law school. In the meantime I will pursue whatever opportunities present themselves in the sports marketing industry in the Bay Area.
CB: I am going to travel this summer and then begin a job come September.
KHW: Teach tennis during the summer, before looking for a job.