Serve and Volley: Vol Seniors

April 22, 2014


Jarryd Chaplin and Colton Norton have experienced a lot during their time as members of the Tennessee men's tennis program. As the squad's two seniors this season, Chaplin and Norton have been strong representations of the blue-collar work ethic that has characterized the team under coaches Sam Winterbotham and Chris Woodruff.

Chaplin, a native of Sydney, Australia, and Norton, a local from Jackson, Tenn., arrived at UT and, while their roles on the team may have differed, the leadership that they have shown has been consistent. Even with the ups and downs of this season, the two seniors have been constant pieces in the team's success.

In this special two-person edition of Serve and Volley, the two elder statesmen of Vol Tennis speak about the Premier League, which teammate was once known as "Screech", Australian grizzly bears and the full story of what actually killed Kenny.

Q: Two seniors, this is the final regular season week, bookended by the final home and road weekends. What are you both feeling right now?

CN: Obviously the last home matches were a big deal, a bit emotional in some ways. Honestly, all we've been thinking is that these (Auburn and Alabama) are two very important matches. I haven't really got down to thinking that it's the last week of the season. We've still got SECs and hopefully a good run to be made in the tournament.

JC: I'll reiterate that, just in the sense that now because we can build off this past weekend which was pretty encouraging, I thought. It's nice to get over the emotional toll of this past weekend. We can both suffice that it was pretty moving playing on the courts for potentially the last time (CN: the first time) for four years.

Q: I've heard a little bit, but the senior dinner that took place here Sunday night. I've heard the emotions were quite high.

JC: To put it in perspective, it's pretty much a room full of people that made your experience what it was and for both of us, it was probably the best chapter of our life and we still have more to go. When you reach a climax like that to thank everyone for what they've done...certainly you can't do anything but be emotional about it. It was a really special time for everyone to be together.

CN: You're in a room full of people that you really care about. You have a lot of people saying mostly really good things about you, so it strikes a chord there and we didn't hold it together all that well (laughs).

Q: How have you guys each grown since you guys first came on campus and first became part of the program four years ago?

CN: One thing is just how much more comfortable and confident I feel just around this place, on the tennis court and around the coaches. When I first came in, I remember being nervous about it, not knowing what to expect. Each year gets a little easier, you get more comfortable and you get to the point now where you're enjoying everything and are super relaxed around the court.

JC: For me, I learned what responsibility meant; living on my own, playing for something other than yourself, which in tennis is all you really know until college tennis, so undertaking that responsibility and also understanding personalities. We have had upward of 20+ teammates over the past four seasons and meshing all those together is such a crazy adventure. I also have to be thankful for Sam (Winterbotham), Woody (Chris Woodruff) and the volunteer assistant coaches I've had in my time for allowing my relationships with them to evolve each year I get older here to where I don't feel the pressure of coach looking down (on me). It's really a pleasure to play for them, rather than feel like you have to hold your spot.

CN: I second that with when you first get here, you're so ignorant with the relationships you're going to build. You have no idea that in four years, you're going to feel the way about your teammates and your coaches that you do. You just think you're coming here and playing tennis and every freshman is ignorant in the same way with that.

JC: The responsibility to the school, as well. When there's so many sports across the whole school that are vying for the same SEC Championship mentality, the opportunity that the school gives to you in terms of resources (or) facilities has made me realize who I am.

Q: I know there's been a lot, but favorite moment on and off the court.

CN: Getting to play on senior day was pretty great. My first chance to play in an SEC match and the atmosphere was awesome. I had a lot of people supporting me, I could hear in the crowd. It was just really fun getting to be a part of the excitement and just get to play in that important of a match for the Vols. It was definitely really, really cool for me. That's easily my best on-court experience.

JC: On court for me is the 4-3 matches, whether I was clinch point or a teammates was. It's impossible to replicate in any form of tennis. It's such a buzz and I don't think your body ever stop clinching because you want it so bad. There's nothing that will replace that feeling. I've been fortunate enough to play two of those matches at 3-all and I was on the receiving end of one at Baylor my freshman year. I think that one being the first one helped the next two times. There's no better feeling than that on court.

Off the court, I cannot pinpoint one moment, but I think being with the guys off the court, just everyone in a room together, is refreshing. Beating South Carolina last year (at Neyland Stadium), I think I was more emotional then than I was at that Senior Dinner. Tears of joy...that was huge, so that was a memory.

CN: Until Chaps brought up the football thing, I feel like it's impossible to pick one thing because you feel like you're downplaying so many experiences because if you choose one, then it's going to show out. Just getting together with everybody and hanging out, joking around. We've always got all sorts of inside jokes going on that we don't even know where they came from ourselves.

Q: A couple off-the-court things that I've gathered from being around you guys. Colton, I'll start with you. In interviews with Brandon (Fickey) after the Arkansas match, he brought up the point that you lead the all-time series against him.

CN: He's talking about juniors because we're both Tennessee guys. Yeah, I had his number when we were younger, but the scales have flipped a little bit.

JC: That's not proven, though.

Q: What was it like playing against him back in juniors?

CN: Junior tennis is just a different animal, really. It's been such a long time ago, having to rack my brain.

JC: What did he look like?

CN: Just a little short Ficks bopping his head around.

JC: Curly hair?

CN: Yeah, he used to have his hair really long and curly. That's why we used to call him Screech, but it was fun beating Ficks back in the day. We had some pretty good matches. I can remember playing him at McCallie one time and playing him at the Champions Club in Chattanooga one time and actually at KRC (Knoxville Racquet Club) indoors one time and I'm pretty sure I won all three of those. He was obviously a year younger, which back in the day can make a big difference, so I think that gave me the one-up on him.

JC: Is it true that he used to wear tank tops for every match?

CN: Yeah, every single match. He was kind of known around juniors for wearing tank tops at all times, so that's what really fueled me to want to beat him even more.

JC: And pink headbands. He used to wear pink headbands all the time.

CN: He was just that guy, being kind of obnoxious.

JC: That one guy in the draw that you didn't want to lose to.

Q: Do you bring it up since you've been here?

CN: Every once in a while, we throw a joke around about it, but I think me beating him a few times made him stop wearing the cut-offs.

Q: Has he brought it back to practice ever?

CN: I think he's just embarrassed at this point because he lost in them so much that he won't do it, but maybe he should.

Q: So, from what I've heard, there's a lot of sport banter, definitely with the Premier League (Manchester City is Colton's team). So why Man. City and then what's with all the team banter?

CN: I chose Manchester City as my team because I used to room with Ed Jones, that's what got me on all the soccer. We used to play a lot of Fifa on the Xbox, which is kind of my thing. Oddly enough, it sounds kind dumb, but if you play enough Fifa, you actually know all the players on all the teams to the extent of which you kind of know about them in real life because they're accurately portrayed in the game. So, I know how good this guy is because of how good he is on Fifa. So, that's how that works, but I actually do like watching it. I was actually watching Champions League yesterday, but I chose Man City because everyone who follows the Premier League hates Manchester City because they kind of buy all their players. I just realized that me telling everybody that I was a Manchester City fan ticked them off a little bit, which is kind of funny to me.

JC: And Jonesy is a Liverpool supporter and Sam (Winterbotham) is Stoke, so my team is very broad: it's anyone who plays Stoke.

CN: And Bart (Sawicki) is Manchester United, so I sent him some tweets when Manchester City beat them 3-0 a few weeks ago.

JC: Jonesy and Sam really started the banter a couple years ago and then it evolved when Colts got involved with it.

Q: How does Sam get into it because Stoke doesn't usually do anything? (Note: As of 4/21/14, Stoke sits in 10th place, right in the middle of the league standings...MCFC is 3rd, Man. Utd. Is 7th and Liverpool leads)

CN: Exactly. That's usually what we bring up whenever he starts talking about it.

JC: In Sam's defense though, my rugby league team is woeful, just like Sam's team and I stay loyal to them. I can appreciate that at least.

Q: I was going to bring up the National Rugby League (Australia) and Parramatta (Eels)

CN: I am a Rabbitohs fan, though, in the rugby league.

Q: Oh, so you guys try to follow the rugby league, sort of?

JC: He's got no idea who he's supporting.

CN: I asked him to list all the names of the teams and I just chose the team that I thought sounded the coolest, which was the (South Sydney) Rabbitohs.

JC: And I asked him, since he knows so much about them, who his favorite player was and he proceeded to say Rabbitoh Babbitoh. I've yet to see him on the roster.

Q: What exactly is a Rabbitoh?

CN: That's a great question.

JC: It's a rabbit.

Q: Oh.

JC: It's a type of that Australian slang. The South Sydney Rabbitohs and fondly enough, they are owned by Russell Crowe.

CN: Didn't even know that. That's why I chose them.

JC: He was famous for going on the David Letterman Show when they made their huge signing in the Rugby League because Lebron (James) had just gone to the Miami Heat and he tried to compare the two, which was a bit of a fail, but he was trying to put it into context.

Q: So how did you become a Parramatta supporter?

JC: I was watching them at 7 years old and I loved their jersey. Ever since then, we've had some glory days. In 2001, we made the Grand Final and then a couple of average years or so. In 2009, we made a kick and made the Grand Final again. Haven't won one in a long time, but for most of my life, we've not been very good, but I still love the team. My favorite player is Jarryd Hayne and he spells Jarryd the same way I do, so there's a connection.

Q: Is that anywhere near you in Sydney?

JC: Yeah, it's about 15-20 minutes, I'd say. There's probably about six teams in the Sydney area.

CN: How about the Rabbitohs?

JC: They're about 30 minutes away, cross-town rival.

CN: So they're a bit of a rivalry.

JC: One of our biggest rivals is probably the Canterbury Bulldogs, which is my brother's team. That's a big talking point in our house and in 2009, we beat them to go to the Grand Final, so I won't say whether he cried or not, but you can put two and two together.

Q: So, is Fifa still a thing? I remember it would be the biggest thing a year or two ago.

CN: I used to play non-stop with Ed and we were roommates, so it worked out fine, but now Hunter (Reese) and Bart aren't the biggest Xbox guys, so I don't want to force it on them and be on the TV all the time. It's a bit of a lifestyle.

JC: You embrace it. It should also be a paid position.

CN: I couldn't agree more. I actually tried to play for money, but it's illegal in Tennessee. I actually have not played a single game of Fifa this season.

Q: I am baffled by that.

CN: Yeah, me too. I guess it's me getting more mature I guess.

JC: Our sophomore year or our junior year, we had a couple of in-house tournament among the team and Colton's usually pinned as the No. 1 seed and if anyone lost 10-0 to Colton, they had to run around the apartment complex. That was fun.

CN: 7-0 was a call to my mother apologizing to her for wasting my time.

JC: And 5-0, you had to publicly apologize for wasting his time on Facebook. So there were some stipulations if you signed up.

Q: Another thing I remember that used to be a big thing is Ping-Pong. How much of a thing has it become this year, but also, you are part of the No. 1 doubles team with Hunter.

JC: I think the two years before this year, it was a probably bigger, wasn't it? There is an elite few in this group that can really establish themselves among the Ping-Pong community and I would probably add both of us in that. Two very different game styles and, on a good day, Mikelis (Libietis) can make a run, just a little bit of firepower, but mentally he's not all there.

CN: Sean plays pretty well.

JC: Sean Karl does OK, but if you're probably going to set up a bracket, you would probably pin the two seniors at No. 1 and 2. We tried to play in Knoxville and I don't have the better of him, but when I went back to Jackson, to Colt's home, I slammed him in three sets.

Q: Just walked right onto your home turf...

JC: I don't know whether that was like the pressure of playing at home or what.

CN: I was a bit nervous to be honest with you.

JC: That might have been it.

Q: I thought you were supposed to do better at home.

CN: The dimensions of the room were off for me.

JC: The surface was a little quicker. I was serving and volleying really well. Just hop on the table, hit a volley.

CN: For quite a while, Hunter and I were undefeated this semester. I have to admit, we took a recent loss to (Andrew) Dromsky and (Sean) Karl, but we are still up 3-1 in the series, so I wouldn't say they've taken the crown by any means.

JC: Dromsky was cheating. Terrible sportsmanship, bad line calls. He thought that he had hit the edge on a bunch of balls, but he didn't.

CN: He was really just talking smack the whole time. When you're the lesser team, you need those kind of antics in order to win.

JC: He resorted to the bottom of the barrel.

Q: Jarryd, the Oklahoma road trip (Tulsa and Oklahoma State). I've heard a few stories about a few phone applications, including QuizUp. I bring up QuizUp because of you (Colton) beating him at Australian trivia. So, Ping-Pong is one thing. How do you lose on your own country's trivia?

CN: Great question! That's a great question. I think the question I won on was `Which animals are not native to Australia?'

JC: And I was down by x amount of points by then and I needed to pick one of them as quickly as possible.

CN: I went with the good ole Grizzly Bear, which was correct, and I believe you went with...

JC: Probably the Knoxville bear is what I went with.

CN: Something obviously native to Australia. Probably you went with koala.

Q: If I see Grizzly Bear and Australia in the same sentence, for me that just automatically does not equal each other.

CN: That's exactly what I was thinking.

JC: I don't have a good answer here, Robby. I'm ashamed of myself. I think I let my country down and I more importantly, I let myself down. It won't happen again because I deleted the app.

CN: I guarantee I won't lose to him in American trivia.

Q: We can talk about Flappy Bird too if you want to.

CN: Flappy Bird was a one-hit wonder. We played pretty much non-stop for about two weeks and then I got a whopping 398, so everyone else quit because they were discouraged.

JC: It was a little bit like Lindsay wonder. She was there and then she was gone.

CN: Flappy Bird and Lindsay Lohan...that's good.

Q: I haven't the story yet, even though I've heard it referenced so many times. Kenny.

JC: Kenny, it's a touchy subject. I don't know if he evolved in a dream I had. I had reached a point in my college career where I was sick of people asking if I had pet koalas and kangaroos and grizzly bears. I answered one day in the most cynical fashion that I did have a koala once and his name was Kenneth. Kenneth the Koala. I didn't want to really elaborate on it because it was a touchy subject, but he fell out of a tree one day, but he had bad arthritis in his fingers. He couldn't hold onto the tree anymore. As you can see, I'm choked up a bit, but the best koala a kid could ask for at the age of 3. It was heartbreaking to watch him go down like that. I heard a big thump from my bedroom and that was it. That's the legend, the myth of Kenneth the Koala.

CN: You did convince a class of that, though, right?

JC: I did convince one history discussion class on the opening day. They had to pick true or false and they said true to that.





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