The West Chester University tennis team found more awaiting it on a recent trip to Hilton Head Island than just a spot in the Professional Tennis Registry's Spring TennisFest.
"I had a group of ladies come out and bring home-baked cookies to this team," recalled Julie Jilly, PTR's vice president of operations. "I just said, 'Oh my gosh.' "
It's that type of local support that has helped foster the growth of Spring TennisFest, which is now entering its third year in the Lowcountry. A similar turnout to years past is once again expected March 2-30, as men's and women's tennis teams from more than 70 colleges and universities will flock to the island once again in March to compete in the annual PTR event.
"There's a lot of people on the island who really like to follow the colleges," Jilly said, "whether they went there, their kids or their grandkids went there. A lot of people do enjoy it."
Teams hailing from NCAA Divisions I, II and III, as well as four NAIA schools, will make the trip this season. South Carolina schools S.C. State, Benedict College, Limestone and Newberry will compete, as will nearby Savannah State.
They will be hard-pressed to match the support shown for Penn State Behrend College, though, whose alumni association treats the Division III team to a party in Bluffton, Jilly said.
George Mason University and Siena join S.C. State and Savannah State as the Division I schools competing. Divisions II and III make up most of the field this year.
Matches will be played across the island, including at the Van der Meer tennis centers, Chaplin Park, Hilton Head Island Motorcoach Resort, Hilton Head Island High School and at several property regimes. Match times and locations are expected to be released in February.
Other events off the court are also being planned, Jilly added.
"The college students are on spring break, so rather than just play tennis the whole time, we do ... karaoke night, gym night, exhibition night and a cookout dinner at the beach," she said. "There's a lot of activities in the evenings so they can intermix with other college teams, which is their whole reasoning for going on spring break."
Spring TennisFest is one of two spring break college tennis events in the area in March. Spring Break Tennis, entering its 29th year on Hilton Head Island, will welcome more than 180 teams from March 2-29, as well. Among the state teams participating are Converse College, Coastal Carolina, Erskine and The Citadel.