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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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‘Tremendous potential’

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Photo by Connor May

Senior Trey Hilderbrand hits the ball at the Mitchell Outdoor Tennis Center on April 1, 2023.

Eventual AAC conference champion Trey Hilderbrand wasn’t always singularly focused on tennis. Like most kids growing up, he said he played a plethora of sports.
“I had my mix of sports,” Trey said. “I played a little bit of baseball [and] a couple of seasons of little league basketball. Stuff like that. Honestly, I think I tried out tennis as my last sport.”
It wasn’t until the age of 10 that Trey started taking the sport seriously.
“That was when I really started hitting more,” Trey said. “I would go on the courts with my dad to have a little fun. I guess actually starting to not necessarily train, but be out there for a little longer.”
The person who initially got Trey interested in tennis was his father and eventual coach, Mark Hilderbrand.
“[My dad] was a tennis player himself and coached me my entire life,” Trey said. “Growing up, he coached a lot of different players, so from a young age he had me on the court just kind of hitting balls around and having a little fun out there. I kind of got hooked on it. Ever since then he has always been my coach and always trained me.”
Around that time, Trey met his eventual teammate at Texas A&M, senior Noah Schachter. For most of their respective childhoods, Schachter said they weren’t necessarily friends from the beginning but did see a lot of each other.
“[The] first time I met Trey was actually when we were 11 [or] 12 years old playing a national tournament in Arizona,” Schachter said. “We were playing Ping Pong against each other. We weren’t friends or anything because we lived in different states, but we would always see each other at national tournaments. We were kind of always aware of each other and we never really became good friends until he committed to the team.”
Despite being focused on tennis, Trey said it wasn’t until he was 16 that he started improving and seeing a future in the sport.
“[At the] 12s and 14s, I was always decent,” Trey said. “I was always a pretty good player, just kind of middle of the pack. When I turned 16 years old I started getting a lot better and having results. I started doing well on the ITF Juniors Circuit. That’s when I knew I could definitely go to college and play at a high level there. [Then], hopefully take it to the pro level.”
A memory that stands out to Trey is when he got the opportunity to play in a Grand Slam tournament for the first time. He said it gave him the opportunity to witness and experience the life of a professional tennis player.
“Playing in the US Open for the first time in the Juniors … Just because of the experience,” Trey said. “I had always wanted to play a [grand] slam [tournament]. It was really cool. Getting to be there and see all the pros be there and play. Going to the locker rooms and eating where the players eat. I always thought that was a really cool experience for me.”
When it came time to decide where to go to college, Trey decided on University of Central Florida because he felt it gave him the opportunity to eventually become a pro tennis player.
“It was mainly just the coach, the area and I knew a lot of the guys going to UCF because we played together in Juniors,” Trey said. “I knew how good they were and we would be a very good team. I [also] thought the coach could help me become a pro tennis player and that was the ultimate goal for me.”
While at UCF, Trey learned more about life and grew as a person.
“I felt like I went in there young and stupid, not really knowing anything about the world or what college was,” Trey said. “I matured a lot all the way around when I was at UCF. I feel like as I got older I learned more and more every single year [about] what it takes to be a man, [taking] care of yourself and living on your own is a big part of that. Living on my own really helped me mature quicker.”
Trey had a number of great achievements and moments with UCF, but his favorite was winning the school’s first American Conference Championship in 2021 over University of South Florida.
“I clinched the conference championship for UCF,” Trey said. “It was the first time in school history we won it for tennis. We had lost in the finals in my freshman year a couple years before that to the same team we beat in the finals, so that was a very good [moment]. That really felt good for us. We had wanted that title for a long time and we finally got it. It was a feeling of relief.”
After his four years in college, Trey decided it was time for a new challenge as he entered his final year of eligibility. In the end, Trey elected to take his talents to College Station.
“I had done my time there, I did four years there and I decided I wanted a new change,” Trey said. “I just wanted to go somewhere different for my fifth year. I felt like I kind of wanted to go back home to Texas. I knew that A&M [still wanted me], so I decided I wanted to give it a try here [in College Station].”
In the transfer portal, Trey’s sole focus was A&M, a school he knew well.
“It was always A&M,” Trey said. “I’m not going to say I was close to committing to A&M, but it was between [them] and UCF [coming out of high school]. I’ve always wanted to be an Aggie since I was a little kid and I knew I had the opportunity to be here for one year and that was good enough for me. I didn’t even talk to any other schools when I was in the transfer portal. A&M was always my number one option.”
When Schachter heard about Trey transferring to A&M, he was excited because he knew the caliber of player they were adding to the roster.
“I was super excited because we were pretty good last year and one or two players from really making a deep push,” Schachter said. “He’s one of the best players in the country, so it was really exciting to hear that news. I called him right away and we started chatting. Ever since then it’s been really cool.”
It was an easy decision, Trey said, because he knew how great of a program coach Steve Denton had built during his time at A&M.
“A&M’s been a really good team for a long time,” Trey said. “I watched them as a kid growing up when they were a very good team. I know Steve and Kevin have been the coaches here for a long time. I knew what they brought to the table was good, and I knew they were a top-10 team a couple years back when I was [at UCF] my junior [and] sophomore year. I knew that we could be a good team if I came here and that was my main [focus].”
Schachter said Trey met up with him in Florida to play in some pro tournaments and build chemistry on the court with each other.
“After I heard he committed we decided to travel to some pro tournaments together and he came to Tampa to stay with me for a few weeks,” Schachter said. “We were practicing together and getting ready for some pro tournaments. We had a lot of success in doubles together, won some pro tournaments over the summer and that’s how we realized we were really good together. We rode that momentum into the season.”
Thus far, Schachter thinks Trey has been a great addition to the team, both on and off the court.
“[Trey] fits in great,” Schachter said. “Everyone gets along with him really well. He’s a hard-working guy and that’s what our team is about. On top of all that, outside of the tennis court we all get along great. We’re always laughing together and stuff.”
Trey’s focus has been on trying to help his teammates in any way possible and be a part of a special team.
“I just want to be the best teammate I can be to these guys,” Trey said. “I’m old, [it’s] my fifth year. I’ve been through it in college. My individual [accolades] don’t really matter anymore. I just want to be a part of a really good team and hopefully we can succeed in doing that. [From an] individual standpoint, I don’t really want to worry about myself too much. I just want to make sure I’m the best teammate I can be and guide them.”
While this year’s A&M team has promise, Trey feels it’s up to himself and the other older players on the roster to help the younger players.
“I know this team has a lot of potential,” Trey said. “I know how good we can be, but our team is young and it’s up to us older [players] to give the best opportunity to [our younger] guys and guide them. We can be a very good team. We just have to be mature and hopefully we can play well.”
For Trey, his ultimate goal is to be a professional tennis player. Schachter thinks he has the ability to do it in both singles and doubles.
“He has tremendous potential and I think he can have a very successful pro career [in] singles and doubles,” Schachter said. “I know doubles is his main focus, but in singles he’s had a lot of success. His game style is super unique and gives a lot of people trouble. I don’t think there’s a limit to how much he can achieve in singles, but he can definitely make a good living in doubles.”

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