Hudson Emerges as Key Player for Sagehens After Impressive Journey

When he came in as a quiet first-year walk-on to the Pomona-Pitzer
men’s tennis team, nobody had very high expectations for the previously-unknown
Connor Hudson PO ’15 from Golden, Colo. Luckily for the Sagehens, Hudson used his underdog position as motivation to prove everyone wrong.

And prove them wrong he
has. Acting as one of the team’s leaders, Hudson has helped lead the Hens to their best season in
years, with a current record of 23-5 overall and 5-2 in SCIAC. Not only has their record improved, but the Sagehens have also become more confident while enjoying their teammates’ camaraderie, leading to a united flock of Hens ready to fly far into the postseason.

Like many
young athletes, Hudson began his tennis career at the age of five with the encouragement of his father, who also played collegiate tennis at Carleton
College. As a young tennis player, Hudson was drawn to the individuality of the
sport and the ability to independently control the outcome of the game. Although he was smaller in
stature, Hudson modeled his play after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, one of the modern
tennis greats.

“Tsonga has
a big serve and forehand, which were two things that I tried to mimic despite
being nowhere near as big as he is,” Hudson said.

Despite not being recruited, Hudson was drawn to Pomona College for his higher education. However, from the moment he stepped foot on the Pauley
Tennis Complex, he knew he was going to play here.

“I remember
walking into the tennis complex, and the team was in the midst of a really close
match. I hadn’t seen anything like it before; it was so loud,” Hudson said.
“Afterwards, when I got into the car, I told my dad that I wanted to play here
no matter what.”

As a
first-year walk-on, Hudson constantly put in extra hours with his teammates,
including Max Sabel PZ ’13, in order to work his way up to the No. 6 spot on the
team. By junior year, Hudson was playing at No. 3 in both singles and
doubles. Nonetheless, after a semester abroad, Hudson wasn’t at his full
potential. Knowing this, Hudson made a huge effort to improve going into his
senior year.

“Connor
made a conscious effort just after the season last spring to get better,” head coach Steve Bickham said. “He
worked incredibly hard all summer, practicing and playing in as many
tournaments as possible. When the fall season
began, everything started to fall into place.”

After a
successful start to the year, Hudson and his doubles partner Kalyan
Chadalavada PO ’18 made it to the ITA West Regional championship in September against
two Stags: Warren Wood CM ’15 and Nik Marino CM ’15.

For Hudson,
who hadn’t beat Marino in the previous 14 times they had played, this was one
of the biggest games of his career.

“Needless
to say, I was pretty nervous, while my partner was frustratingly calm.
Regardless, Kalyan played extremely well and was able to carry his
nerves-stricken doubles partner through the match, for which I am extremely
grateful,” Hudson said. “After the match, I was so excited that I actually
threw out my shoulder celebrating.”

Going into
the spring season as a newly crowned All-American, Hudson has definitely lived
up to the hype. While Hudson doesn’t have any specific highlights so far in the
team’s successful season, his teammates definitely have some favorite moments.

“We had a
really close match against Bowdoin and it came down to four-all,” Kevin Wei PO ’15
said. “Connor was the last match on and it came down to the third set, and he
stepped up and played extremely well to ultimately pull out the win for the
team. It was really great to see him stepping up in one of the
biggest matches of the season his senior year and putting the team on his back.”

Hudson has not only performed well statistically; he has also stepped up as a leader off
the court. From weekly poker nights to team events, Hudson has managed to
create one of the most unified teams in years.

“He does a
really good job of making sure the team has a good connection off the court,”
Wei said.  “He was usually pretty quiet
in the past, and this year he has really stepped up and taken a leadership
role. I think that’s a really commendable thing, and he deserves to be
recognized for it.”

The
coaching staff also recognizes Hudson’s importance to the development of the
team.

“I cannot
minimize the quiet, controlled leadership he has shown to everyone this year,” Bickham said. “We needed somebody to step up, and he has done that more than anyone I have
every coached. Simply saying I am proud of him is a huge
understatement.”

You can cheer
on Hudson and his Hens this weekend as they play at the Ojai tennis tournament April 24 and 25.

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