Sometimes, knowing what it takes to lose can be a key factor to winning and Hawaii Pacific's men's tennis learned the hard way.
After losing in the finals of the 2014 and 2015 NCAA D2 men's tennis Championships, the Sharks had no intention of the wrong kind of three-peat. The Sharks used their heartbreak to propel them to victory this past spring, capturing the 2016 D2 NCAA title and turning heartbreak to joy.
Hendrik Bode is entering his fifth year at Hawaii Pacific and knows the tennis program well. As a player at HPU, Bode was a member of three tournament teams and was named ITA Male Player of the Year his senior season. He then became a graduate assistant in 2010, assistant coach in 2011 and took the reins as head coach in 2012.
With that experience, Bode said his goal for the team is simple: to be the best they can be at the end of the day. Hawaii Pacific is typically expected to be a contender for the D2 national championship due to quality depth and incoming recruits, but they never start the season expecting victory to handed to them.
"There are no guarantees on winning championships," he said. "Winning takes failure."
Although the team has the mentality of focusing on what they can control and not on winning or losing, said Bode, the Sharks also look forward to postseason play and expect to produce their best efforts during the tournament. In April of the 2016 regular season, Bode's crew dropped three tough matches to the University of West Florida, Georgia Gwinnett College, and Armstrong Atlantic that gave them a reason to dig deeper at the end of the season.
The goal of winning a national championship grew closer and Bode said the team, which included three players who had previously lost in two finals each, knew it would take heart to bring home the trophy.
"We are a very good team, but maybe we have to work a little harder."
Now Bode looks to lead the Sharks in a similar fashion to begin the 2016-2017 season. They return six players, four starters and two other returners, creating a solid foundation. Three graduating seniors allowed for three newcomers, one for the fall season and two arriving in the spring.
After posting a 21-3 record last year, Bode said the nine-man squad has been staying in shape over the summer by training with their personal coaches and playing tournaments individually.
The players knows that they need to be in pristine shape when they return to campus for the first practice of the fall season.
"They know they can't start from zero, Bode said. "They all come back in shape and then we build on that."
Photo Courtesy: Hawaii Pacific Athletics