Edit: Since Original Publication, the Blue Raiders' Streak has Continued. Above is an Active Counter to their Home Streak.
Lightning Strikes 25 Times
March 11th, 2021
When Stijn Slump walked off court two at the Adams Tennis Complex (ATC) on February 17th, 2019, MTSU men’s tennis had lost three of its last five matches on its home court in Murfreesboro. His match was the deciding point that gave the South Alabama Jaguars the win that Sunday afternoon.
It was appropriate that a legendary streak would be headlined by the man who dropped that crucial match against South Alabama. Later that same Sunday, MTSU would sweep Alabama A&M 7-0 with Slump not dropping a game at the top singles court. Since then, MTSU has not lost at the Adams Tennis Complex nearly 753 days later.
MTSU’s record stood at a less-than-optimal 4-5 in the 2019 spring season and the Blue Raiders had even more tough matches on the horizon. St. John’s and East Tennessee State University were scheduled to play at ATC in the coming weeks, and the Conference USA tournament would be held there as well. Middle Tennessee State needed to find its footing quickly.
The story goes that MTSU would defeat every team that set foot in ATC including during the Conference USA Championship. While the total days since the Blue
Raiders last loss at home was partially inflated after COVID-19 wiped the second half of the 2020 season’s schedule,
the Blue Raiders’ 25 consecutive wins trails only North Carolina’s 28 straight home wins for most by any Power 6 team.
In the 25th and most important win, Slump was the decisive victory for the Blue Raiders over local rivals Vanderbilt. This is the first win for the program over Vandy since 2006 after 13 straight Commodore victories.
There’s a reason why a streak as long as MTSU’s is so rare in major college tennis in modern times: the struggles of dealing
with a world ravaged by a pandemic, the wear and tear of scheduling tough competition year in and year out, or just the turnover from one team to another year after year. The Blue Raiders have faced all of these challenges during its 25-match win streak and so far, passed every test given to them with flying colors. Middle Tennessee State’s match versus Louisville Friday will be the fourth Power 6 conference team to face the Blue Raiders at the Adams Tennis Complex during the winning streak. MTSU has maintained its strength at the bottom of the lineup which has served as a calling card for the program for many seasons dating back to Blue Raider greats such as Gian Issa.
The streak is a testament to head coach Jimmy Borendame. Since his arrival in 2010, the men’s tennis program has soared back to the heights of former great MT coaches such as Dale Short (1988-2007) and Dick LaLance (1977-1987). Borendame’s 61% winning percentage ties him with Short for second best all-time by any Blue Raider coach.
His coaching run has seen the Blue Raiders collect three conference championships (two in the Sun Belt, one in Conference USA) and consistently rank as one of the top non-Power 6 teams in the country annually. While some Blue Raider athletic teams are in rebuilding stages, the argument can be made that the men’s tennis program is currently the premier Blue Raider athletic team on campus. Not many schools can make that claim. Much of this success is to due to Borendame’s hard work on and off the court including recruiting the best talent from around the world to join the Blue Raiders.
The most staggering part of the men’s tennis program and its winning streak at home is how the success of the team has drawn raucous crowds to the Adams Tennis Complex no matter how big the opponent.
Students, faculty, and residents of Rutherford County can sometimes be heard making plans and socializing at Blue Raider tennis matches like those at football or basketball
games as seen on other college campuses. The Blue Raider team does their part to put on a show for the hundreds of fans that visit ATC every season. Tennis players are now recognized and celebrated on campus as the star athletes they are instead of melting into the background. This culture has helped the mostly foreign Blue Raider team to mesh together with the supportive Blue Raider nation around the university, providing a sense of family that many other programs in college tennis cannot.
Whether or not the streak ends this week is not important. The fact is, MTSU men’s tennis accomplished something very few programs, regardless of size or prestige, could in a world environment that has made it harder than ever to stay consistent. Even if MTSU loses its next 25 home matches, there will still be supporters cheering for the Blue Raiders on the court at home or away because that’s what this program means for the fans that have come to love these scrappy super underdogs. For now, until the final point goes against them, MTSU’s streak continues.
Article: Nathan Vaughan
Home Streak Timeline: Kristi Jones