Virus can't stop march to record

Tim Cianciola

Tim Cianciola finished his Denison tennis career as the all-time winningest men’s singles player.

He also wasn’t a bad recruiter.

Cianciola’s early success in the Big Red program and his praise for university life convinced his older sister, Hannah, to transfer from George Mason University to Denison, where she played three seasons on the women’s tennis team. His younger sister, Sydney, also couldn’t resist the gravitational pull of her brother and the Denison experience. She’s heading into her senior season on the women’s team.

“I visited here and really liked it and I think Hannah saw how much fun I was having and how good the team was and decided to transfer,” Tim Cianciola said. “Sydney didn’t originally want to come to the same school as her brother and sister, but she’s really enjoyed a lot of success here.”

The challenge for men’s tennis coach David Schilling is recruiting another player and leader as influential as Cianciola, who graduated in the spring of 2022. His combination of talent, temperament, and self-belief drove the Big Red to a 2022 NCAC team title and helped the program reach the third round in the Division III NCAA Tournament.

Cianciola, the two-time NCAC Player of the Year, eclipsed the school record for career singles wins with 67, an honor previously held by Lee Hays (63 victories) from 1996-99. The achievement is made more impressive by the fact that Cianciola and the Big Red were limited to a combined 20 matches during his sophomore and junior seasons due to the global pandemic.

As a senior, Cianciola also established a new single-season mark for doubles-match wins (28), with the old mark of 23 set in 2006. He qualified for the NCAA singles and doubles tournament in both events, reaching the quarterfinals in each.

Schilling said Cianciola’s confidence and competitiveness helped transform him into a two-time Division III All-American. Sometimes, those traits can be a detriment in a team environment, Schilling said, but that wasn’t the case with Cianciola, a Canfield, Ohio native and the son of two former collegiate players. His mother, Susan, taught him the game, and is a longtime tennis instructor in northeast Ohio.

“A lot of the best tennis players are very edgy,” said Schilling, who spent 20 seasons as an Ohio State assistant coach before being named Denison’s head coach in 2020. “Tim has that edginess when he’s competing, but he doesn’t necessarily have it against our teammates. He helps lift the spirits of everyone on the team.”

Cianciola has the option of returning for one more season because the NCAA granted a fifth year of eligibility for athletes impacted by pandemic-related cancellations. But Cianciola, who graduated with a degree in biology, is eager to start his career in the medical field.

“I really like helping people and taking care of people,” he said. “That’s what I want to do with my life.”

Published July 2022