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Alexander Cauneac ’19 strikes the ball during one of the doubles matches last Thursday against Loughborough University. Cauneac and his partner Bryan W. Lilley ’17 won the match 7-6, 6-3.

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The MIT tennis team squared up against a team from Loughborough University visiting from England for the second annual Trans-Atlantic Challenge. Although MIT put up a spirited showing and the Loughborough players said they were impressed with the level of play, the MIT men’s and women’s teams were defeated with an overall score of MIT 3-13 Loughborough. While the three days of tennis were an important aspect of the trip, the goal of the Trans-Atlantic Challenge is to explore and develop academic and research collaborations between these two prestigious institutions.

Although MIT is known primarily for its academics, it also has one of the most comprehensive athletics programs in the United States, offering competitive varsity sports along with extensive intramural, recreational, and physical education programs. On the other hand, Loughborough University is one of the most competitive sporting universities in the UK, winning first place in the British University and Colleges Sport (BUCS) competition every year for the last 35 years. Along with success on the field, scientists at Loughborough are conducting groundbreaking research in sports sciences and fitness programs. Even with the many similarities between Loughborough and MIT, the visiting students have had quite an experience on their trip to Boston.

“It has been fantastic. We have had some great matches and I have really enjoyed playing a different set of people,” said Loughborough player Louise Holturn. Along with the addition of mixed matches to the competition, the visiting team noticed some differences in the athletic cultures of the two schools. Citing the large banners hung up in the Carr Tennis Bubble and the playing of national anthems at the start of matchplay, Tom Haslam described the beginning of the competition as his favorite part of the trip. “There is a bit more pomp and circumstance, so the whole production of the first day was nice.”

The Loughborough students’ trip lasted a full week, with three match days and some time for exploring MIT and Boston. They were treated to a tour of the athletic and academic facilities and were impressed with the academic culture here in Cambridge. “At Loughborough, everything is based around sports, whereas here everything is very academic,” said Rob Godman. “Seeing the labs on campus and the robotics at the MIT Museum were really interesting.” Some of the students also visited the Skywalk Observatory at the Prudential Center and several members of the team raved about the food at Bertucci’s. “They had everything, including the best meatballs I have ever eaten,” commented Rob Godman.

According to the Loughborough students the two biggest differences between the United States and Britain are the food and friendliness. “The amount of food is a massive difference. It does not stop. It never stops, and that’s great,” said Lou Thompson. Several players were impressed with the welcoming atmosphere and mentioned that people around MIT have been very friendly to the visiting students, stopping to chat in dining halls and around campus.

The Trans-Atlantic Challenge is a great sporting event and an awesome opportunity for both MIT and Loughborough athletes. Louise Holturn summed up her experience, “The tennis has been great but it has been really nice to see a bit of America and Boston as well.”