| Vlad Khudziy|
| Augusto Velez|
While the 1990s have always been viewed as the glory days of the Huntington University men’s tennis
program, last year a new era of Forester tennis was ushered in by the addition of talented newcomers Vlad Khudziy and Augusto Velez.
Khudziy, a sophomore business major from Moscow, Russia, and Velez, a senior computer science major from Lima, Peru, quickly established themselves as the Foresters’ top two players.
While each has racked up countless individual awards throughout their careers, together they have created a dynasty at No. 1 doubles. To date, the duo has amassed 30 wins against only six losses. As last year’s Mid-Central Conference (MCC) doubles champs, Khudziy and Velez guided the Foresters to the program’s seventh conference championship and seventh trip to the NAIA National Tournament.
This past fall, the two tag-teamed their way to claim the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Regional doubles crown and earned an automatic bid to the 2011 ITA Small College National Championships where they finished fifth overall.
Most impressive about their doubles career is that until coming to HU they had very limited experience playing with a partner. Playing tennis for their school wasn’t an option so they both grew up playing at a tennis academy and under a personal coach. It wasn’t until they donned green and white that they experienced being part of a team.
While these changes have been an adjustment for the duo, it’s their relationship that has made HU a home away from home. But they each admit they’ve had to adjust to the added pressure that comes with team competition.
“There’s more responsibility that comes with being part of a team,” Velez said. “I’m not just trying to win for myself; I’m trying to help the team win too.”
And win they have done. In fact, the highlight of their Forester career has been going to nationals as a team.
“Playing together came easy to us. I trust him and he trusts me,” Khudziy said. “We’ve spent a lot of time together (on and off the court) so we know how the other thinks and as a result, we know what to expect from each other.”
It’s not only their talent that sets them apart, but their pre-game rituals, as well.
Khudziy always keeps a tennis ball in his left pocket (that he never uses during the match) and a tissue in his right pocket. He also starts his warm-up at half court instead of the back line and never volleys in warm-up. Velez wears a wrist band on his left hand, and even though he doesn’t need it, he always wears an ankle brace on his left foot.
It’s this unshakeable camaraderie that has helped them succeed. While they kindly remarked it’s very different living in Indiana compared to home, both are grateful for the opportunity to play collegiate tennis in the U.S.
“I knew I wanted to play tennis in the States so when a teacher who was helping me prepare for the SATs and TESOL told me about Huntington, I jumped on the opportunity,” Khudziy said.
After playing tennis at a junior college in Texas, Velez made his way to HU thanks to Gonzalo Vivas, a 2010 alum and current assistant tennis coach at HU, who grew up playing tennis at the same academy.
Together these two have put HU tennis back on the map. While the pair’s career together will end this spring (when Velez graduates), they have taken the Foresters to a new level of tennis, and as it seems, a new glory days.