Van Hill (Tennis 1966-70)
When naming the top University of New Mexico men's tennis players, you can be certain that Van Hill would be on the list. In fact, for many of those top individuals, Van helped to inspire their successful UNM tennis career. 2007 Hall of Honor Inductee, Tim Garcia, spoke of Van and his teammates as the "titans" of UNM tennis. "Van and his teammates did more for our tennis program than any team ever, period" said Garcia.
Originally from El Paso, Texas, Van was nothing short of a high school star. In 1966, he was ranked No. 2 in the Texas Interscholastic League. Recruited by Baylor, Southern Methodist University, Texas Tech, Army, Cornell, Arizona, Arizona State and Texas Western, Hill chose to come to UNM. Jack Kennedy, fellow UNM tennis alum and Hall of Honor Inductee, said "he (Van) was a freshman on what was probably the best tennis team to ever play at UNM." In the No. 4 position, Van became a Western Athletic Conference (WAC) champion in the spring of 1967.
Van's athletic prominence continued throughout his tennis career. Along with doubles partner Tony Bull, Van was out making a statement in the WAC. The two were ranked No. 1 in doubles Van's sophomore and junior seasons. For the second year in a row, Van became a WAC champion in singles, this time at the No. 3 position. His performance at the conference championship that year played an integral part in the team earning the first team conference title in UNM men's tennis history.
In the 1969 season, Van was unstoppable. To earn the conference title that season, Van had quite a task ahead of him. Standing in the way of his third conference singles title was three-time WAC champion Brian Cheney of Arizona, the fourth-ranked tennis player in the NCAA. For those that had the opportunity to see the match, they remember it as the "best they ever saw." Van played remarkably, helping him move on to an undefeated record in conference dual meet matches and propelling him to win the conference title at the number one position. Following the conference championship, Van went on to compete in the NCAA tournament and made it all the way to the round of 16. His run at the NCAA tournament helped to earn All-American honors, making him the second Lobo to ever bear that recognition in men's tennis. In reward for his successes, Van earned the Joe Dailey Award for the top UNM Athlete of the Year (1969) and was chosen as an Outstanding College Athlete in America by the Outstanding Americans Foundation (1970), and was All-Conference three times in singles and two times in doubles.
Van continued to play tennis following his UNM career earning No. 1 rankings in singles and doubles for the Southwest Tennis Association. To this day, Van is thought of as one of the best players to have ever played in the Southwest region.
Maybe more than his tennis stats, Van is remembered for being one of the kindest, well respected and humble individuals that you could come across. He went on to have a fine career in dentistry and has received high recognition for his accomplishments. He is a member of several professional associations and gives back to his community. UNM is lucky to have such a great representative. Former teammate, Tim Russell stated that Van "was fiercely competitive on the tennis court, but as nice a person as you could ever meet off the court." A superb athlete and man of high character, Van embodies the vision of the Hall of Honor.