NCAC Player of the Week is nothing new for Thomas Manning, ’16, and his tennis career. Manning was awarded player of the week for his play over spring break during the week of Monday, March 21 in Hilton Head, South Carolina.
“He won all of his doubles matches and only lost one really close singles match to a good player from Carleton College, but it was a really fun match to watch,” said Head Coach Jared Luteran.
Not only has Manning started off his season well, but he has also had a career that is worth noting. Going into the spring season, he was ranked 50th in the country and 13th in the central region for singles.
“He picked a great time to peak because this is the best tennis he has played in 4 years,” said Luteran.
Luteran has been pleased with Manning and his attitude on and off the court.
“His behavior is stellar,” said Luteran. “He is humble, he keeps his cool on the court, he cares about the team and he is a great role model for the younger guys.”
Jai Redkar, ’18, and Manning have been playing first doubles together this spring and they have a record of 5-1 so far this season.
“About a month and a half ago I started hitting with Thomas outside of practice a lot, and I feel like this is the best tennis I have ever played,” said Redkar. “We get along really well outside of tennis so that helps our chemistry on the court.”
Manning did not start playing tennis until high school. After playing baseball for most of his life, he decided to try something new.
“I just started playing tennis for fun at the end of my sophomore year with my friend who was on the high school team,” said Manning. “He told me I was a natural so I decided to join the team my junior year.”
Luteran has high praise for Manning and how much he has improved over the years as well.
“The fact that he didn’t pick up a racquet until high school is amazing,” said Luteran. “He comes in and works hard every single day, and he puts in the extra time outside of practice.”
Manning believes that working hard outside of practice is what makes you better. He started off his freshman year playing six singles, but he has moved his way up to the top over the past four years.
“I hit for an hour before practice with Coach Luteran at least two times a week so that I can work on things that I personally need to get better at because that is what really makes a difference in your game,” said Manning. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without Coach Luteran.”
Luteran is also pleased with Manning’s hard work and dedication on his tennis game on and off the court.
“The fact that he comes in two or three times a week to hit with me outside of practice is great for our young guys to see,” said Luteran. “He listens to whatever we ask him to do and he is the epitome of good sportsmanship.”
In the fall of 2015, Manning made it to the quarterfinals of the ITA Division III Central Regional Tournament, which is the furthest any athlete has ever made it for men’s tennis in Allegheny history.
“We have never had a player make it to the NCAA Tournament, but it is possible for him,” said Luteran. “I have coached a lot of great players over the years and he is one of the best.”
Manning has high hopes for the rest of his senior season to try to make it into the NCAA Tournament for Division III.
“I think that we have a good chance of making the tournament for singles and doubles if we win the rest of our matches, and I think that is definitely possible,” said Manning. “I play four more ranked players in singles matches this season and if I beat all of them I will move up in the rankings and have a shot at the NCAA tournament.”
After being named All-NCAC Second Team for doubles and All-NCAC Honorable Mention for singles last season, Manning hopes to finish his collegiate tennis career on a high note.
“By the end of this season I think that I have a chance to be regionally ranked for singles and doubles, that is my goal,” said Manning.
Manning will continue his journey to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, April 10 when the Gators play their next match against Kenyon College at 2 p.m. in Meadville.