USTA Eastern's "Cinderella" squad came together as unit and captured what they thought to be impossible: a trip to the USTA League National Championships.
© Gregory Shamus
By J. Fred Sidhu, special to USTA.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. – The USTA Eastern women are thinking about their attempt at a fairy tale run at the 2013 USTA League Adult 55 & Over 6.0 National Championships, amazed at the journey that led them here.
The team, hailing from Mt. Kisco, N.Y., had the majority of its players bumped up to the next NTRP level three years ago. The remaining members were relatively inexperienced, with little playing time in League matches.
“We called ourselves the ‘Cinderellas’ was because we thought we had no chance of winning a match, no less going to the Sectionals,” said team captain Pam Suett. “These were the leftover players who didn’t get bumped up. They didn’t have the chance to play very much.”
Suett took the reins soon after the NTRP shifting and remembers the genesis of the new team as a time of uncertainty.
“No one was sure [that] they wanted to play together, but we decided to play,” said Suett. “We grabbed a few more people who didn’t know each other. I said to everyone: ‘who cares about Sectionals, let’s just play and have fun.’”
In that first year, Suett gave everyone an opportunity to play – “there is always a diamond in the rough; play all of your players and the good will come out,” she said – and the squad found a level of cohesiveness that made it a winner, bonding together to reach the Eastern Sectionals that seemed a pipe dream at the start. Once there, they fell a step short of a trip out west and a crack at a national championship.
“The first year we went to the Sectionals, we were like the deer in the headlights – I was paralyzed,” said Suett. “We did well considering, but I didn’t know there would be so many people and so many courts, it was overwhelming. We were intimidated.”
The Cinderellas used that valuable experience to become a better team, going on to win a 2013 USTA Eastern Section title to earn a trip to the Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex. The glass slipper fit, and the New Yorkers finally had their invitation to the dance.
“We are older women and we’ll never have this experience again in our life,” said Suett. “To be able to go to Nationals at our age, to play tennis and have fun, it’s an incredible experience.”
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