By Samantha Thompson
Are your friends worth giving up a $20,000 scholarship for? To Matt Seeberger, they definitely are.
After three years of smashing UC Santa Cruz’s tennis records, Seeberger began this season by taking a full academic scholarship to play Division I tennis at the University of Hawai’i. But after only one semester, Seeberger decided to turn down the scholarship and return to play his senior season with the Slugs.
“I wanted to transfer to play DI tennis to push my game and see how far I could get, but when I got there I wasn’t having as much fun playing tennis,” Seeberger said. “The environment wasn’t as suitable for a good connection with my teammates.”
The guys on the team were happy to see their unofficial leader return, but seemed even more ecstatic just to welcome their friend back home.
“He told me that the friendship wasn’t really there,” sophomore and teammate Ilya Gendelman said. “They didn’t have the same love for the game as we do over here.”
Seeberger and Gendelman both pointed to the team’s camaraderie as a primary reason for his return.
“We all live together and Matt’s moved back in with us now,” Gendelman said, referring to his house, which eight of the tennis players share.
The team is also glad to have their No. 1 player leading them into the new season, though most of the team had only played one season with him.
“A lot of us just knew him as playing No. 1 for us and kind of as a legend,” Gendelman said. “It’s definitely good to have him back. He’s the boss around here.”
On a team of 17, Seeberger is one of only five upperclassmen, giving him the opportunity to become the emotional leader of the young team.
“I knew I could make a positive impact and lead them in ways that I wouldn’t be able to do in Hawaii,” Seeberger said.
Head Coach Bob Hansen was equally excited to have his top player leading the team into the season.
“He has layers of experience that other guys don’t have,” Hansen said. “He’s definitely the best and it’s so much better to lead with him.”
Assistant Coach and former UCSC tennis player Bryce Parmelly is looking forward to seeing how the young, talented team will stack up this season with Seeberger at the top.
“We have the potential to be No. 1 in the country and win the championship,” Parmelly said. “With him in the mix now, it’s really a possibility for us to win the NCAA title, which is what we work for day in and day out.”
With two singles titles and two doubles titles already under his belt, Seeberger has essentially nothing left to prove at UCSC. His return is less about winning awards and championships as it is about his desire to return to a group of tight-knit teammates—teammates worth $20,000.
“I just want to get the guys on the team working as hard as they can every single day,” Seeberger said. “And whatever happens, happens.”