Chase Lipscomb reached the NCAA Division III men’s tennis quarterfinals before losing to a Claremont-Mudd player, top-seeded Nikolai Parodi back on May 24 in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Just when Lipscomb’s University of Redlands teammates, Brysl Libao and Bradley Cummins, were about to take on Parodi and Julian Gordy, Univ. Chicago’s Erik Kerrigan and Ninan Kumar upset Claremont-Mudd second-seeded doubles team.
All of which made the Lipscomb-Libao-Cummins trio instant All-Americans.
Their coach, Geoff Roche, led the Bulldogs to a 13-6 mark this past spring. Earned his second Coach of the Year honors along with that.
That’s only a thimble full of Redlands’ tennis success surrounding the local university, which has touched several decades -- dating back to the early 1950s, in fact.
In Kansas City, where the NAIA headquarters sits, there are probably vast records that includes Redlands. There are other sports, but tennis is probably the most noteworthy.
Redlands, in fact, left NAIA affiliation decades ago.
Ever wonder about Verdieck Court, that tiny road that lines the west side of the Univ. Redlands’ tennis complex?
Named for Jim Verdieck, Redlands’ legendary coach. How Verdieck earned that distinction -- legendary. His name likely permeates the NAIA’s Kansas City offices.
Verdieck, a 1972 NAIA Hall of Fame inductee, had his proven methods. Training. Toughening.
In one day, Verdieck might schedule an NCAA powerhouse. That same day, his Bulldogs might be securing an SCIAC match against Whittier or Occidental.
They’d play 35 to 40 matches in a year, finish their SCIAC schedule unbeaten and then dominate the conference tournament.
Notre Dame and Stanford, USC or San Diego State, Pepperdine and UC Irvine might be on Redlands’ A schedule.
Those poor B SCIAC teams couldn’t handle the Bulldogs’ massive talent and depth. A Redlands loss to Pepperdine, 8-1, might be better prep than knocking off Occidental, 9-0.
Armed with a double-death schedule and an insane workout regimen which included a mile-and-a-quarter run to the top of Rossmont Drive (it’s only insane if you’re aware of the steep nature of this run), Verdieck worked those teams to 15 national titles.
That breakdown is 12 NAIA titles, plus three more NCAA titles.
“Coach Verdieck would give me the keys to the van and I’d take the team to our SCIAC match,” remembered Redlands’ current men’s basketball coach Jim Ducey, a 1978 U of R graduate and a longtime tennis coach, “while he went off and played the big boys.”
It was more than schedule strength. In order to match that skill against a Pepperdine or a Loyola-Marymount, the eagle-eyed Verdieck could spot the flaws in a player’s stroke. A couple baskets of balls might take care of it.
When Verdieck called in his team’s scores to the local newspaper, say, a match against Washington, I’d ask every time, “did they play their A lineup against you, Coach?”
Verdieck, it seems, took offense to such a query. He growled once, “Why do you always gotta ask that?”
The inference seemed to be that a top NCAA power might play their B or C level players against the small-school Bulldogs.
It cheapened the matchup, in a sense. I think that’s what he thought I was inferring.
On the other hand, if USC or UCLA sent their ace players onto the court against Redlands, wouldn’t readers want to know that, Coach?
Doug Verdieck versus the nation’s No. 3 ranked player.
Scott Moore going up against UCLA’s No. 1.
Or Ken Whitmer-Mark Tappan taking on a loaded Pepperdine doubles team.
Verdieck: “Oh, yeah. Well. OK.”
Great coach. Lousy newspaperman. That era ended when SCIAC forces bonded with the NCAA (Division III), parting ways with its longtime NAIA connections.
Rules changed almost overnight.
NCAA rules only permit 25 matches. NAIA options allowed 35 to 40 matches, allowing Verdieck the chance to toughen his teams against those top-flight players that same day.
That idea seemed simple. Battle those ultra top-spin serves, vicious volley blasts, rush the net a few times, all against highly ranked players. Meanwhile, against lesser talented players, secure SCIAC championships and make it to NAIA post-season.
I have an idea that USC’s No. 3 singles player might’ve had more racket ammo than, say, the No. 1 from Gustavus (Minn.) Adolphus or Kalamazoo.
Great gimmick to take teams into those Kansas City-based NAIA nationals.
Pretty sure Redlands leadership fought that NCAA maneuvering out of NAIA. They were committed to SCIAC convention.
It was an interesting era.
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