THUMPER

I knew Roland was good, but when he lost the first three games of his first match, I gulped. Not to worry! Nerves settled down, he went on to win that match 6-3, 6-0. And the next 44 matches. Lost three sets all year. He won the NAIA Singles title. Teamed with Stefan to win the doubles. We had four North Carolina starters in addition to the 2 Swedes. It was very unusual for the NAIA team win- ner to have an American starter in the 80’s and 90’s. Four “plain vanilla” Tar Heels were proud as punch. Roland was like having a tough big brother in a fight. He “buoyed” the rest of us.
He was also selected as the “Freshman of the Year” in NAIA tennis. And he won the NAIA Sportsmanship Award.
It was a dream season. We were treated to dinner at the Governor’s Mansion in Raleigh. Jim Martin served as host. We were cited in the Congressional Records, sponsored by Congressman, Howard Coble of our District.
Roland was a potential pro. I knew it was in the best interest to move “up.” Still it was hard for us. I think we both shed tears as he transferred to UNC, Cha- pel Hill to play for Coach Allen Morris, a great player, and friend, and protégé of Coach Jim Leighton.
Roland was in the top two or three college players in America. And, as a ju- nior, he was also given the NCAA Division I Sportsmanship Award. This award is a one-time award, but an odd thing happened.
Playing in the NCAA Division I Indoor Singles Championship in 1993 senior Roland was down a set to Georgia’s Mike Sell, a fine player. This final match was on ESPN and Sell served a second serve. Down 4-5, 30-40, or a precious service break point for the set. The lineman called the serve out. Double fault, set to Thornquist. One set each.
The puzzled commentators watched Thornquist as he spoke to the chair um- pire. Then one commentator said: “Well, you don’t see that everyday.”
Thornquist had overruled the linesman on his opponent’s behalf. Roland told me he’d seen the ball hit the line and he couldn’t have returned it. He gave Sell the point.
He did win the second set and the third. More than that he exemplified the best in sport.
At the Spring Coaches Convention, the question of the Sportsmanship award came up for vote. It was noted Roland, though a logical candidate, was ineligible. An unattached Coach rose in the meeting and suggested “Men, we can give
this award to anyone we wish, but Roland Thornquist deserves the award. I move we waive the rule for one year. Roland won his third National Sportsmanship Award.
Dean Smith, Carolina’s basketball legendary coach found out about Roland. He had him on his TV show. Not only that Smith himself won a rather significant sportsmanship award that year: “Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year.”
Coach Smith commented “You know, I’ve never argued with the official to call that foul on us, rather them. Roland’s one up on me!”
Coach Smith helped Roland get the women’s coaching job with Roy Williams’ school then, the Kansas Jayhawks. Williams came back to Carolina, and Roland did too. Carolina bolted into the women’s top ten tennis teams. Roland then ac- cepted the Gators job at Florida. In his second year his girls won the NCAA Divi- sion I Women’s title.

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