“Tremendously disappointing:” App State men’s tennis program cut


Courtesy App State Sports/Sun Belt Conference

Former App State men’s tennis players Milo Bargeron (left) and Zion Heaven (right) fist bump during a match. The App State men’s tennis program, along with men’s soccer and men’s indoor track and field, were discontinued because of budget cuts due to the pandemic.

Sasha Pisareva

App State Athletics announced May 26 that it was cutting several sports, including men’s tennis, due to the financial difficulties caused by COVID-19. 

“The whole situation was tremendously disappointing,” said Jack Maddocks, a former player and assistant coach.

The program was discontinued in the middle of the season, before the Mountaineers started conference play. Maddocks was looking forward to seeing how the team performed in the rest of the regular season and the postseason.  

“We had some great matches during the season, especially when we beat UNC-Charlotte right before getting cut,” Maddocks said. “The boys were always working hard, and I think they had a good chance of playing better at the conference tournament.” 

Maddocks spent six and a half years at App State as a player and an assistant coach. He is now with the Wildcats at the University of Arizona as a volunteer coach for the women’s tennis team this fall. 

According to former App State tennis player Matvey Rodionov, it was devastating to hear that the program was cut. 

“We were on a tough schedule, and we were getting better and better every match, and, unfortunately, we couldn’t finish it. It is not fair that we got cut just because we are not (making) money for the school. App State lost good talent,” Radionov said. 

The team being cut was one of the most challenging experiences of his life, Radionov said. It meant he’d have to transfer to a new school for the second time.

Radionov spent one year at the University of Nevada at Reno before transferring to App State as a sophomore. He ended up transferring to Drexel University in Philadelphia after the App State program was cut. 

According to Zion Heaven, a sophomore from Hawaii and former App State tennis player, the news was life changing. 

“Up until this point, COVID-19 had done little to disrupt my life, outside of wearing masks and a two-week quarantine upon arriving home to Hawaii,” Heaven said.  “That morning, I received a text from my coach that said ‘we have been cut.’ The news hit my stomach immediately as I couldn’t process it at that moment.”

Heaven said he was almost in tears when he heard the news. All the memories that he had at App State glimpsed in front of his eyes. Like Radionov, he also had to find another school to continue his collegiate tennis career. 

“I asked to be put on the transfer portal in order to find a new school. Over the next few weeks, I talked to many coaches and players from different schools,” Heaven said.

Heaven said he felt a little guilty for leaving App State because of the community friendships he created as a Mountaineer. His final two schools were Liberty University and Brigham Young University. 

“I ended up choosing Liberty University, and I must say I love my time here so far. The people have been great, and athletics has welcomed me in so warmly and helped me with all my transfer troubles,” Heaven said.

Heaven says the pandemic caused initial havoc and chaos in his life, but the team’s cut happened for the better, and he is happy for the time he spent at App State and excited for what the future holds.