When St. Cloud State University sophomore Alexie Portz walks onto the tennis court she steps on with confidence and self-discipline knowing that she’s walking along a path paved by generations before her.
Three generations of the Portz/Sundby family have attended St. Cloud State and played collegiate tennis.
“St. Cloud State is in our blood,” said Larry Sundby, Portz’ grandfather and assistant men’s and women’s tennis coach.
Sundby attended St. Cloud State in the early ’60s, and played on the men’s tennis team. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1963 and an MBA in 1967. After working in public accounting for a couple years, he went on to earn his Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska before coming back to St. Cloud State to teach accounting.
“For a period of time, I coached girls tennis at St. Cloud Technical High School,” Sundby said. “Former women’s athletics director, Gladys Ziemer, asked me if I would like to take over the women’s program at St. Cloud State.”
Although being a professor was his primary focus, Sundby had always enjoyed the game of tennis, playing for the Huskies and then coaching at St. Cloud State.
Sundby met his wife, Ruth (Willey) Sundby ’63 ’79, at St. Cloud State and had two daughters, Kris (Sundby) Portz ’90 ’94 and Julie (Sundby) Martin ’94 ’05.
Both attended St. Cloud State, and played tennis under their dad as coach.
“He didn’t give us special treatment. He treated us all as daughters,” said Kris Portz, an accounting professor at St. Cloud State. “The only special treatment I probably got was a few more one-on-one breakfasts with ‘Coach’ at Perkins, where we rehashed our weekend matches.”
“I didn’t know how long I would continue coaching. I’m 73 years old, so I’m getting up there,” Sundby said.
“It’s really special to be able to play for him,” Alexie Portz said. “He knows my game better than anyone else.”
For Sundby, his granddaughter’s first steps onto the tennis court as a freshman collegiate athlete were especially touching.
“I think it was really emotional, at that point, when Alexie came out for her first match,” Sundby said. “I don’t think she understood the significance of it, but for me it was such a special moment in time to have her as a third generation player for our family.”
As for if there are any more family members coming through the St. Cloud State pipeline, “It’s possible,” Sundby said laughing.
After all, the family bleeds red and black.
A family of Huskies
Sundby St. Cloud State Family Tree