Casey Kay has taken an uncommon collegiate career path by transferring to one of his school’s biggest rivals. Originally enrolled at Georgia, the sophomore tennis player transferred to Tech this past August in hopes of receiving more playing time. Kay was redshirted to begin the 2011-12 season and played in a fair number of matches in the fall of 2012, but after seeing very little action in the spring of 2013, he decided that it was time for a change.
“I just started talking to a couple of coaches, and [Tech head coach] Kenny [Thorne] seemed really excited about the potential of me transferring, so that was really encouraging,” Kay said. “I knew I would get to play in the lineup.”
Kay’s first match as a member of the Jackets was coincidentally held at UGA’s campus, in the Southern Intercollegiate Championships. He performed well, winning three singles matches in a row to advance to the round of eight before losing. Then in the very next tournament, he faced and defeated a former teammate, riddling the beginning of his Tech career with reminders of where he came from.
“It was pretty weird wearing the rival colors at my old courts,” Kay said. “Then the next tournament was here and I played my old teammate in the Southeast Regional, so that was a little weird too, but it went well.”
He was given another opportunity to play his former team earlier this season in January, in the MLK Invitational hosted by Tech. He lost his singles match in straight sets but won his doubles match alongside teammate Nathan Rakitt, 6-5 (8-6).
“It was pretty cool. I just went out there and played it like another match,” Kay said.
The team will travel to Athens to play Georgia in a dual match on Thursday. It will be Kay’s first time playing against the Bulldogs in Athens and his first time playing against them in a dual match.
“I know the crowd there is going to be loud,” Kay said. “It will be a close match. We know they’re a good team, and we played them pretty close last time. The overall score wasn’t that close but on every court we had three-set matches or close matches, so it will be a fight, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Kay feels that he will have a little bit of extra motivation to play well against them, just to show them what they are missing. However, he wants to make clear that he does not feel any animosity towards UGA, and that the decision was made purely so he could make the most of his time as a college athlete.
“I’ve never really thought about [the two schools’ rivalry] that much,” Kay said. “When I was at Georgia, it was not about going to a big rival school; it was just an in-state school with another good tennis team. It wasn’t like, ‘I’m going to go to the rival school, screw these guys,’ or anything like that, and I’m still friends with some of the guys on the team there.”
In fact, Kay feels that the programs are fairly similar, and that the biggest differences come from the academics and the location.
“School is a little bit harder here, that’s the main thing,” Kay said. “It’s a lot different living in Atlanta versus Athens; big city versus small college town. I like them both, and being in Atlanta is pretty fun.”