May 15, 2009

BOSTON, MA - When it comes to playing tennis, UMass Boston senior Paul Braude (West Yarmouth, MA) seems right at home on the court. Compared to most college tennis players, the Cape Cod native got a late start to the sport, only starting to play when he was 14 years old. Since then he has continued to accelerate his game to new levels and doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon.

The co-captain of this year's Men's Tennis team has been on a wild ride since high school, but that never stopped him from competing hard and working to improve his skills whenever he had the opportunity. Braude was a highly recruited athlete out of Dennis-Yarmouth High school and in 2005, decided to take his game to Southern New Hampshire University to play on a scholarship. He was the only freshman to start both the fall and spring season for the Penmen, but something just wasn't right.

"It was a real reality check, making the transition from high school tennis to the college level," said Braude. "The level of competition was so much more intense then I had ever imagined and I'm not sure I was completely ready for it. That was when I decided I needed a change of scenery and applied to UMass Boston."

Braude was a very late transfer to the University, but was able to make contact with Cheryl Aaron, Assistant Director of Athletics and Sports Compliance. Aaron assured him that there would be a spot on the Men's Tennis team and that he'd fit right into the Beacon family.

"When I came first came over to UMass Boston, Glen Schleehauf was the captain and kind of running the show. With Glen's help, for the first time in my collegiate career I felt like I was a part of a team. He was like a mentor to me and really helped me open up and grow as a player. I'll never forget the impact he had on me that first season with the Beacons. If it weren't for him, I'm not sure if I'd be the same player today."

As Braude grew as a player, so did the UMass Boston Men's Tennis program. Each year the number of players increased, as did the level of competitiveness. Braude attributes this growth to the addition of Eric Berg, head coach of both the Men's and Women's tennis squads.

"When we found out that Eric was going to be joining the program as our head coach, I knew things were heading in the right direction," said Braude. "After having played for him for a couple of years now, I can confidently say that he's a terrific coach. The guy was a division one college player and definitely knows his tennis. He's helped me and my teammates all learn a lot and the future of the program is in good hands. Any player that makes the decision to come to play for UMass Boston is making a great one because if they give Coach Berg the time, he'll help them become much better all around players. That's what he did for me."

As Braude prepares to wrap up his collegiate undergraduate days, he recalls some of the great memories that came in between the lines on the tennis court.

"Any player that is as competitive as I am will remember the matches when you leave everything on the court. My junior year against Rhode Island College I picked up a huge three set win (6-3, 4-6, 6-3) that took four hours long. That was intense, and then this season the highlight of the year for me would have to be the first singles victory against the number one player from Western Connecticut. I've been playing against him for a few years now and our matches had always been competitive but we were both seniors and knew that this was probably the last time we'd ever play each other. He crushed me in the first set, 1-6, but I was able to dig deep and battle back for a 7-5 win in the second set to even the match and then pull out a 6-4 win in the third set to take the game. Those are the wins that make you want to keep playing."

Although Braude's collegiate playing days are over, he has aspirations to one day become a college head coach. This shouldn't be that difficult considering that he already runs his own tennis program at the Barnstable Yacht club during the offseason. Last summer he worked 80 hour weeks giving group lessons to children between the ages of 4-16 and then worked private lessons for any willing patrons, ranging in ages of 5 to 85.

"It's a rewarding job that allows me to do what I love. The best of both worlds," he said.

During the weekend of May 9-10, Braude packed up his racket and tennis shoes to head down to Weyland, MA so that he could take a certification test to become a member of the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR). The PTR is the largest organized professional tennis group in the world, and this certification would solidify that he can teach his game like the best of the best.

The Beacons will certainly miss their trusted number one player next season, but Braude believes that the way the program is moving; in less than five seasons UMass Boston will be the kings of the Little East Conference.

"I'm sad that my career at UMass Boston is over, I mean, if I could stay eligible forever I would," said Braude. "Some of the best times of my life have come out on the tennis court, but the way I see it, I'm just getting started."