This is a continuously updated project as the dynasty continues to grow.
From 2020-2022, the Blue Raiders held the longest home win streak at 33.
When thinking about college athletic programs throughout the country, the first few sports that would come to most people’s minds are probably one of the three big ones: football, basketball, and baseball. However, on the campus of MTSU there’s been a sport that has been gaining more traction as a top program not only locally, but throughout the nation.
With back-to-back Conference USA Championships, numerous Conference Player of the Year awards and being one of the
top 50 ranked programs in the country, the MTSU Men’s
Tennis team has been a
meteoric bright spot for the athletics program throughout
the years. How did this all
come to be?
If you ask around the stands of a crowded match during the season, fans will point you to Head Coach Jimmy Borendame. If you let Coach Borendame explain it, he would say the journey began after an honest conversation he had one day with his father. Borendame graduated from West Virginia University with his master’s degree in 2003 and took a job working with the Chicago Bulls that he ultimately felt wasn’t his calling.“I was miserable. I used to hide in the bathroom at the end of the day because I hated my job so much.”
After telling his father about the woes of his then career path, his father questioned how ethical he was being by continuing working for the Bulls and told him to start sorting his life out. Borendame decided after that conversation he would start searching for his passion.
"If you love what you do, then it’s really not work,” said Borendame when speaking about the search for his next career. Borendame found that passion in coaching tennis. Previously being a top 30 ranked player while playing at Butler, Borendame had all the skills necessary to be a collegiate level coach. After years of serving on multiple college staffs as an assistant coach, Borendame would serve a brief stint as the head coach of Drake University. One year later he would leave Drake and take the head coaching job at MTSU during the 2011 season.Speaking on his start as the Blue Raiders Coach Borendame said, “It was miserable. I started the year, I had four players on my team. Only four. You have to six to have full starting lineup.”
On top of not having enough players, the team also had no indoor courts to practice. They had to travel an hour away to Antioch to practice at an apartment complex’s tennis facility. The team was coming off a losing season and the transition from the previous coach caused a bit of unrest in the team. Even through all this, Borendame found a way to win. In his inaugural season Borendame went 11-8 with the team, winning 70% of the games played that year. The team also won the Sunbelt Conference Championship and Borendame was recognized as the Conference’s Coach of the Year.
He credited building a culture with his
team calling them the Blue Army to
galvanize the players into the right
mindset during that season. Under his
leadership, the team would repeat this
effort a year later in the 2012 season
again, going 11-8 with the team. The
team finished the season with another
conference title along with earning
himself another Coach of the Year
award. The team was an unstoppable
force in the conference until a big university announcement came: MTSU would be switching all athletic programs from the Sunbelt Conference to Conference USA at the start of the 2013 fall school year.
This switch to CUSA would be a rough transition for the team because they would be facing a tougher slate of opponents with the likes of top ranked programs like Rice University. During the first year MTSU Men’s Tennis would finish below .500 with a record of 10-14. They also lost all eight of their away games that season. Over the next few years, the team would improve season by season even if the record didn’t always show that. Through the 2017 and 2018 season, the team received a new core of young recruits to pair with the veterans such as Tom Moonen and Gian Issa. This new class included players such as Francisco Rocha, Pavel Motl, Stijn Slump and Chris Edge. These players along with Borendame served as key pieces in the dynasty that has come to be. By 2019 the Blue Raiders would be Conference Champions for the first time in the CUSA. This was also the year that the team started their historic home game winning streak of 34 games that lasted three years.
The next season would be shortened because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Blue Raiders found ways to continue winning as team with players earning recognition for their on-court play. Chris Edge was named Co- Conference USA Player of the Year and was also placed on the All- Conference USA First-Team with teammate Tom Moonen. MTSU would finish the season ranked as the No. 41 team by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association and Coach Borendame would be honored with his third Conference Coach of the Year award.
Blue Raiders Celebrations
With things returning to a bit of normalcy in the 2021 season, MTSU would win their second consecutive Conference Championship. The team would also gain more individual and team awards at the end of that season. Francisco Rocha was named CUSA Conference Player of the Year. Stijn Slump was named CUSA Outstanding Singles Player of the Championship. Chris Edge and Tom Moonen were named CUSA Outstanding Doubles Players of the Championship. When asked what’s next for the team, Coach Borendame pulled out his phone and started reading his five-year plan for the Blue Raiders program that he updates at the end of every season. The list started with being a top 25 ITA ranked program and increasing fan attendance as the team prepares for the building of their new tennis complex this upcoming July.
As the Blue Raiders continue their conquest for another championship this season their next matchup is against Power Five School, Virginia Tech. When asked how the team feels about the changes coming to the program Chris Edge said, “The amount of Power Five matches we’re getting just seems to increase every year. We’re competing with them quite comfortable now which is great. Intensity just keeps getting better and better here and every player is all in for it.”
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