Mary Beth Hansen
Special to the Times
The Valdosta State tennis team hosted its fourth annual Blazer Raiser last weekend, and celebrated more than just a successful fundraiser.
The Blazer Raiser consisted of a VSU tennis player auction on Friday at the American Legion in Valdosta. Community members could bid on and buy a player to be their partner for the mixed doubles tournament that took place on Saturday at the university tennis courts.
“It’s amazing the number of people who have supported it and (came) out to play,” Valdosta State head coach John Hansen said. “Fortunately, they have a lot of fun, so they keep coming back.”
Eight men and eight women players were auctioned, and the highest bidder received a $1,000 Girardin Jewelers gift certificate.
The mixed doubles tournament was in round robin format. Jimmy Miller and his partner Michelle Fischer made it to the finals, but were defeated by two past VSU players. Derrick Racine, West Florida men’s head coach, and his partner Chan Dixon, who played on the team from 1977-81, took the championship title.
This year, Hansen is celebrating his 40th year of coaching at Valdosta State. The loyal supporters came back, along with many of Hansen’s past players to honor his achievements.
Before the Friday night bidding began, a presentation was held in Hansen’s honor. Two former players and graduate assistants, Sachin ‘Shaq’ Kirtane and Racine, shared memories and gratitude for their mentor.
VSU President Dr. William J. McKinney presented Hansen, who led the men’s team to national championships in 2006 and 2011, with a framed proclamation from Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and Senator Tim Golden, which was to “commend and honor Coach John Hansen for his highest standards of excellence as an outstanding coach and educator.”
While eight men and eight women players were auctioned off, there was a twist. Kirtane and Racine were also auctioned off at Friday’s event. It was the first-ever Blazer Raiser they had attended.
“I love the fact that the community is so involved in it, and just to see the love that people have for Coach Hansen,” Kirtane said. “I think it’s great for not only Valdosta State tennis, but the university as a whole.”
Hansen looks forward to more Blazer Raisers in the future, as he continues to lead the Blazer teams towards conference, regional and national championships.
“We try to keep people involved in the tennis program and make them actually feel like they are a part of what’s going on,” Hansen said. “Without them, we have no success.”