Castle Bats show off their Battitude.
© Juan Ocampo
Castle Bats don masks and pay homage to their mascot.
© Juan Ocampo
By J. Fred Sidhu, special to USTA.com
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – One of the fun aspects of playing USTA League tennis is for players to think up of an imaginative team nickname.
The Northern California Section women’s team playing in this weekend’s USTA League Tennis 3.0 Senior National Championships at the Mission Hills Country Club came up with a team nickname that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
Since the team is based at the Castlewood Country Club in Pleasanton, Calif., team co-captains Arlie Amarie Alford and Robin Lynn Bunton, along with their teammates, wanted a nickname that would tie into the Castle theme.
As they pondered different ideas, someone mentioned "Bats." The suggestion stuck and from that moment, the team would be known as the Castle Bats.
Early this year, the Castle Bats dominated their league as they finished league play with a sparkling 9-0 record, winning 25 of their 27 individual matches.
The team then posted a 3-0 record at the District Championships to advance to the Section Championships where they needed to win their last match in a match tie-break to clinch the final victory and earn a spot in this weekend’s Nationals.
"It was so exciting. We were really shocked. It was a real surprise for us," Alford said. "I remember looking at my co-captain Robin and we looked at each other and said, ‘How in the heck did we do that and now, what do we do?’"
Throughout their season, the ladies of the Northern California Section 3.0 Senior team have shown that they take their team nickname seriously.
"We’re proud of our name. We have a logo with a Bat on our shirts," said Alford. "We have Bat necklaces since we first started and we even have a Bat song."
The team members also greet and support each other during matches with a Bat sign as they flap their arms like Bat wings.
"The idea was that we could form a cohesive team with a lot of camaraderie and just have something special that would bond us together," Alford said. "That is why we did it, and it worked."
Bunton, the team’s co-captain, shared many of Alford’s sentiments about the team’s nickname. "It’s become an identity that we have a lot of fun with. It’s made us grow as a team," she said. "It’s been a great experience."
After one of the their victories earlier this year, an opponent complimented the team on their uniforms and said the team had "Battitude," according to Bunton.
Alford and Bunton also gave credit for the team’s success to the team’s coaches, Jim Swansiger and Adriana Ciarnuto. "Thank God we had some wonderful coaches that helped prepare us," Alford said.
On Friday, the Northern California Section 3.0 Senior women’s team scored 2-1 victories over the Hawaii and Missouri Valley Section teams to finish the day with a 2-0 record and remain in strong contention for a spot in Sunday semifinals.
"Even if we don’t go any further, this has been an experience of a lifetime. I never would have expected at this point of my life that something this special would have happened to me," Alford said. "I’m sure the rest of the Bats feel the same way."