By J. Fred Sidhu, special to USTA.com
Isn’t this what USTA League is all about?
A year ago, the Intermountain Women’s 2.5 team from Salt Lake City finished in last place in its respective fall and winter leagues.
This year, the team finished second in its eight-team spring league to earn a spot in its district tournament, where against all odds, it won three straight matches to advance to the USTA Intermountain Section Championship.
This past August the ladies from Utah continued their miracle run as they defeated 2.5 teams from Colorado, Idaho and Nevada, without the loss of an individual match, to capture their sectional title and advance to the USTA League Adult 18 & Over 2.5 National Championships in Indian Wells, Calif.
The seeds for the team’s success were planted two years ago when team co-captain Hege Farnsworth moved from Atlanta to Draper, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City. Shortly before making the move to Utah, she had started learning to play tennis in Atlanta.
Once settled in Utah, Farnsworth began attending tennis clinics at a local park and eventually began recruiting everyone and anyone to start playing tennis so they could form a team.
“I started asking everyone in my neighborhood. Before long, we had enough players to actually make a team,” she said, adding, “We started playing fall league a year ago. It was the first time many of us had even played a match. They were learning how to score, how to play doubles and learning where to stand. It was really kind of fun to have them play at that first experience.”
After finishing in last place in last year’s fall and winter leagues, something sparked the surprising turn-around for this worst-to-first team, which consists of eight players who are all over the age of 40.
“We saw one of our competitors come in one day with matching uniforms,” Farnsworth said. “So we decided we needed some matching uniforms. I think that probably gave us a little bit of confidence.”
According to Farnsworth, by the time this year’s spring league rolled around, the team began to get into a groove and find the right doubles combinations.
Co-captain Stephanie Osha credited the team’s run to the 2.5 Nationals at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden to a lot of practice, a lot of sweat and coming together as a team and working better as doubles partners.
“The more we played together, the better we got. A fire was lit under us. Something clicked. We had the will and we did it. It’s an awesome group of ladies,” Osha said.
“We started at the bottom of the league and we worked our way up. Like the Cinderella team, we made it to Nationals,” she added. “It’s exciting. We’re happy to be here. We’re going to give it our best.”