A winning streak that extends for nearly 80 years. A streak interrupted only by World War II. The undeniable powerhouse of Kalamazoo men's tennis that boasts its own webpage.
Since before The Great Depression, the Hornets have been winning Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Conference (MIAA) titles. How does Coach Mark Riley, going on year No. 10 at the school, continually bring in a top-notch team to defend the streak? As a Kalamazoo alumni, Riley understands a thing or two about winning.
After graduating in 1982 and contributing to the streak, Riley coached at a handful of other quality universities. But he could not stay away from his alma mater.
"Excellence is what we strive for," Riley said. "The streak is pretty amazing, considering it's been happening through wars, the civil rights movement, several recessions, and other historical periods."
To keep the streak in tact, yet endure major cultural changes, surely was not an easy feat, but year after year, against any and all odds, Kalamazoo brought home the championships. Their opponents know the reputation, and sometimes it can make or break a match. Riley recognizes that, especially during doubles play — opponents may buckle under pressure.
In 2013, the most recent year in which the streak was in remote jeopardy, the Hornets fought off a tough regular-season loss and earned three-way tie for the conference title, against all odds, lending a significant sigh of relief.
Known nationally for the streak, Kalamazoo intends to stay in the spotlight, but in a positive manner. They know if the streak ends under their watch, it will be news. For the upcoming season, the team looks to break back into the top 20 national ITA rankings, as they are ranked No. 36 after last season and No. 10 in the Central Region for D3 schools.
"We want to get back to being a national power with our rankings," Riley told HERO Sports.
Individual results, too, remain a major goal for the 2016-2017 season. Riley intends to return several players to the tournament and earn even better results than last season. The underlying goal as a team, after winning a 79th conference championship, would be to enter the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, showing the program's mettle on the national stage. Currently, Kalamazoo is the only D3 team to qualify for the NCAA team tournament, another brilliant accomplishment for their record books.
Kalamazoo is also the only school that has participated in every national tournament since its inception in 1976.
Add up a streak older than the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, 78 conference titles, and the predominant program at the D3 level and Riley has his work cut out for him. Kalamazoo is a target for every other school in the MIAA and the entire division.
But, what else is new?