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Overcoming Obstacles: BU Tennis newest member an inspiration

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VESTAL, NY -

Mather Stover-Ling signed his National Letter of Intent to join the Binghamton University Men's Tennis Team effective immediately for the remainder of the 2017-18 season.  Mather is ten years old and suffers from spina bifida.  Despite being in a wheelchair for Wednesday's practice, that didn't stop him from taking part in practice in every drill from stretching to hitting.

"It was amazing.  It was very fun," Mather said in his press conference after signing his NLI.

"It's just amazing to watch him out there with the team, having fun, doing what he loves to do," said Shelly Stover-Ling, Mather's mother.

Mather has only been playing tennis for a few weeks but fell in love with the sport the first time he tried it.  He was first introduced to tennis by Matthew Pullano of Pullano Physical Therapy.

"He gave me a racket and he threw a tennis ball at me and I hit it, and something sparked," Mather said.

Mather's love of tennis is fully embraced by his family, specifically his father and grandfather who both grew up playing the sport.

"It was amazing.  Playing in the sport all these years and playing against my dad, now I can play against him and see him grow and become a great athlete," said Peter Ling, Mather's father.

Not only is Mather becoming a great athlete, but he's already become a positive influence on the Bearcats.

"We were so blown away by Mather's attitude or effort.  That's something we talked to our guys about all the time is, whatever obstacles you face on the court or getting things done, it's really what attitude you want to put on things, what effort you want to put into it to overcome it," said Bearcats Head Coach Nick Ziezula.  "It was really evident that Mather had that.  We're trying to learn as much from him as we are teaching him about the game of tennis.  But, that's really been a phenomenal aspect for our guys, just to see that kind of attitude and effort that you don't have to let anything get in your way or be an obstacle if you don't want to."

It's that determination and dedication that really shined on Wednesday and made it an emotional day for his mother.

"From the beginning we were told his prognosis was not going to be very good and he wasn't going to have a good quality of life," Shelly said.  "As you can see he's thriving.  It's really amazing to watch him out here and see all the challenges he's overcome and just playing like every other kid and enjoying himself.  That's what the team treats him as, just a member of the team, and it's awesome to see."

The special day was made possible by Life is Washable's Fair Play Program.  Life is Washable also encompasses the Magic Paintbrush Project.  

"Each session focused on supporting individuals with special needs and families to safely attend community events, explore their interests, and 'try' a new physical activity which may have been challenging to them," said Life is Washable Coordinator Jen O'Brien. "The program works closely with peers in the community, for a fully integrated experience which fosters positive relationships and builds peer and community relationships. This program partners with Binghamton University Athletics to provide volunteer opportunity for student athletes. The results for all is increased self advocacy and confidence."