For the past few years, Kristian Kiland has played tennis in the U.S. for a few weeks in the summer.
The level of competition he sees this month won’t be much different. But what makes this summer unique has more to do with his future than his past.
Kiland, 18, will head south of the border again later this summer. He’ll travel to Crete, Nebraska, for his first year of post-secondary studies at Doane College. He’s committed to the Doane men’s tennis team, a squad that competes in the Great Plains Athletic Conference of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
Kiland completed his Grade 12 studies at Kelly Road Secondary last month. He plans on taking chemistry, math and physics courses at Doane. Although unsure what field he’ll specialize in, he’s aiming at landing a Bachelor of Science degree.
On the court, Kiland will compete for the Doane Tigers, one of Great Plains’ top programs. This year, the men’s team made history by punching their first ticket to the NAIA National Tournament since the program was reinstated in 1991. Doane outscored Hastings College 5-3 in he conference championship.
The Tigers are coached by Pete Fiumefreddo, who was named the conference’s Coach of the Year in 2012. He’s a member of the U.S. Professional Tennis Association and U.S. Tennis Association.
Kiland was attracted to the Tigers’ success. But he also likes what the program offers. Among other institutions he looked into were Pacific Lutheran University (Tacoma, Wash.) and Goshen College in Indiana.
In an effort to join a U.S. varsity tennis program, Kiland put together a recruiting video highlighting his shots. He e-mailed U.S. coaches, Doane becoming an easy choice after they replied with a scholarship offer.
Members of the Tigers also contacted Kiland.
“One guy called me at 6:52 in the morning on Saturday, Saturday morning because he didn’t think about the time change,” Kiland says. “He said sorry, I didn’t mean to call you at the crack of dawn.'”
Kiland will play at the highest level of the NAIA, calling it even with NCAA Division 2 in terms of competitiveness. Although he’ll have to adjust to a new lifestyle, he’s looking forward to the level of tennis.
“There’s so many more opportunities in the states, way more than Canada.”
Growing up in Prince George in a tennis-playing family, Kiland didn’t have a hard time gathering support on the tennis court. His brother is Jim Condon and mother Nancy Condon, both active players. Jim has travelled with Kiland on past U.S. tennis tours, and is joining him again this month.
Kiland began playing the sport at a young age, and has been playing competitively for about five years.
Next week, Kiland will compete in tournaments in Wenatchee and Spokane, Wash. He’s scheduled to enter competitions in Yakima, Wash., and Eugene, Ore. the following week. Kiland started the tour at the Hankey Cup in Vernon on the weekend before entering B.C. provincial championships this week in the Lower Mainland.
The games will help him prepare for his first NAIA varsity season.
“There’s not really one thing that I focus on,” Kiland says. “When I started out, it’s like anybody that starts out. They have one good shot and everything is alright, and they have a few weaknesses and they work on them.”
Although Kiland had success in younger age categories at the Challenger level, he’s seen the level increase as he gets older.
“Nobody has a glaring weakness anymore. Everybody has a solid forehand, solid backhand, solid serve, solid everything.”
Kiland and Jim have driven highways for tournaments in the past. They were planning to use the same mode of travel this time.
“Some people call us the road warriors, we travel so much,” Kiland says.
Kiland will return to Prince George after the Eugene tournament ends on July 21.