ORANGEBURG, S.C. (May 5, 2022) – With 33 conference championships between them, South Carolina State University’s Bulldog tennis teams own the court.

Both the men‘s and women’s teams are en route to the first round in the 2022 NCAA championship tournaments this week having repeated as Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champions last weekend.

President Alexander Conyers recently met the champs and Coach Hardeep Judge at their morning workout to recognize their dedication and achievements and encourage them for the NCAA tournaments.

“Thank you for what you do,” Conyers said. “I know it’s not easy keeping up your academics – you’re doing great there – and coming out practicing day in and day out, as well as being this far away from home.

“You’ve handled it well, and I’m so very, very proud of you,” he said.

The SC State president said he was committed to giving the teams more resources, having the campus tennis courts resurfaced and upgrading windscreens in the off season.

Conyers also offered special recognition to the program’s two graduating seniors, Omer Gorgun of Kocaeli Turkey, and Diego Arzaluz of Puebla, Mexico.

“I wanted to come here to the U.S. because there are better opportunities, and the sports system is way better,” said Arzaluz, who is slated to receive his industrial engineering degree Friday night at SC State’s Spring

Commencement. “Coach Judge gave me the best offer, and he also helped me through all the processes with the NCAA.

“He gave me a great opportunity, he trusted me, and that’s what brought me here,” Arzaluz said.

Both Arzaluz and Gorgun are in the market for graduate schools and hope to be able to stay in the U.S. long term.

Gorgun, too, was attracted to SC State by the opportunities Judge presented.

“I was contacted by head coaches from many schools, and this was the best opportunity scholarship-wise,” said Gorgun, who majors in business economics. “Coach Judge gave me a more detailed explanation of how the recruiting process worked compared to other coaches, and it was more friendly. That’s why I chose here.”

As a freshman, Gorgun was part of the men’s team that lost to Morgan State University in the MEAC finals.

“We were a fresh team (a large number of freshman players), so we didn’t know how to manage the college tennis stress and how to play in the college tennis style,” he said.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, his sophomore season was canceled. He finally tasted victory in the 2021 championships as a junior, when the Bulldogs took out Norfolk State University in the final matches. This year, the men again faced Morgan State in the finals.

“This year, we played against them again, and we were still a fresh team, but we were more knowledgeable about college tennis. So we managed those critical points very well,” Gorgan said.

The men won their 17th MEAC men’s tennis title — and 14th in the last 18 years — on Saturday with a 4-0 win over Morgan State in Cary, North Carolina. They will face the 10th-seeded South Carolina Gamecocks in the NCAA tournament on Friday, May 6, at 1 p.m. in Columbia.

The women won their third straight MEAC title and 16th overall last Saturday with a 4-0 win over Howard at the Cary Tennis Park in Cary. They will face No. 1 overall seed North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., in the first round of the NCAA on Saturday, May 7, at 1 p.m.

“They’re an incredible group of young men and young women,” said Judge, MEAC’s Coach of the Year. “Earlier this season, we lost our No. 1 player on the women’s side to an ACL (injury), and then the women lost their other No. 1 to an injury before the conference tournament. They went in, they fought hard, and they won the conference.

“For the guys, we started five freshmen, we still competed well, and we won. So, things look really good for us in South Carolina State tennis,” he said.

And while Judge’s teams have enjoyed tremendous success, he sees the program going to even greater heights in short order.

“I think we’re taking it to another level with the players,” Judge said. “Our No. 1 player as a freshman, Rostislav Halfinge, was player of the year, rookie of the year. He was a top 70 junior in the world and played in the Australian open.

“So the level of player we are bringing in is at a higher caliber,” Judge said, “and I think you’re going to see in a couple of years how much this program is going to jump.”