The University of North Florida attained a commendable 17th national ranking in the DUPR Gamma Pickleball Power Rankings following their participation in the Florida Regional Tournament this September in Boca Raton, Florida.
The recently established UNF Pickleball Club was one of 24 teams representing 17 schools in the region competing for a spot in the Collegiate National Championship.
Despite their very recent membership and primarily recreational nature, UNF Pickleball Club President Courtney Hughes agreed to a member’s proposal to register for the Florida Regional Tournament.
“We didn’t have many expectations. We kind of just went there to have fun, see how we would do against all the schools,” said Hughes.
With only a month to prepare, they held tryouts and made impromptu decisions, such as acquiring team shirts just days before the tournament!
Courtney casually described their entrance into the tournament grounds: “We showed up, and some teams had jerseys, some schools had coaches.
“So, we just walked in like, here we are,” she recounted to Marithza Ross of Action News Jax.
Our Gamma Power Rankings have doubled in size since the last month.— DUPR (@DUPRpb) October 6, 2023
Despite all the new faces, the UNC team keeps its grip on the #1 spot for the fifth straight month!
For the full rankings: LINK IN BIO#duprpb #collegepickleball #collegiatepickleball pic.twitter.com/MDv0Dzw9VS
While their identity became a point of discussion among onlookers due to their unfamiliarity with the university, their performance drew attention, leading people to acknowledge UNF and their team’s exceptional talent.
UNF Pickleball Club Vice President Judah Samples commented, “It put a chip on our shoulder [sic] because we ended up dominating people.”
The UNF Ospreys Pickleball Club rose from relative obscurity to secure a notable third place in the DUPR Pickleball Collegiate Florida Regionals held at Florida Atlantic University, thereby clinching a coveted spot in the Collegiate Nationals.
Nevertheless, the journey to victory is not without its obstacles. Off the court, collegiate clubs like UNF encounter challenges due to limited resources and financial backing.
Courtney also shared that procuring equipment independently and finding a suitable place to play were among the trials faced by the club.
“We started at the gym, and that wasn’t really fun because we wanted real courts, so we practiced at public parks,” Samples added.
Despite national recognition, clubs like UNF will continue to confront hurdles as long as pickleball remains an outlier in official college sports.
This is where the broader pickleball community assumes significance.
For this to change, your support, whether through sponsorship, raising awareness, or simply cheering them on, carries immense weight.
It matters not only for the future of these aspiring pickleball college athletes but also for the sport itself.
Taking Pride In Their Accomplishments
While pickleball attains the status of a sanctioned college sport, the UNF Pickleball Club will keep spreading the joy of recreational play among students.
With the fall season coming to an end, the Michigan Regional showcased 11 schools and 90 players competing for two of the final remaining bids to the Collegiate National Championship.— DUPR (@DUPRpb) October 2, 2023
Recap: LINK IN BIO pic.twitter.com/J1snkzSvPt
As for the competition team, they take pride in their accomplishments, and the team is currently preparing for the ultimate challenge, where it will face off against the top 36 colleges in the nation at the Collegiate Nationals this November in Atlanta, Georgia.
Follow UNF Pickleball on Instagram: @unfpickleball
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