Southern California Women Drop-In to USTA Nationals

Southern California women high-fiving during one of their matches.
Southern California 2.5 Adult women's team from San Diego in action.
Discussing strategy on the court.

By J. Fred Sidhu, USTA.com

Indian Wells, Calif. – They waited until the last minute to sign up for their local USTA League, but the Southern California 2.5 women’s team made the deadline and ended up playing their way to the 2009 USTA League National Championships.

Led by Captain Yaz Gomez, the team took an interesting route to the USTA Nationals. About 18 months ago, Gomez and a group of friends took part in a Drop-In Tennis program which is sponsored by the San Diego District Tennis Association.

The free six-week program acts as a starting point for beginning tennis players. Gomez and her friends began the program at Chula Vista’s Sunbow Park, a public facility, under the direction of USPTA professional, Juan Villanueva.

“I really wanted to play tennis. I had never touched a racquet before,” Gomez said. After going through the program, Villanueva suggested they join a USTA League to learn more and advance their game.

Gomez and her friends Begoña Gomez Samperio, Leticia Blancafort, Gabriela Savago and Sharon Michelson began playing at the Southwestern College Tennis Center in Chula Vista. They played and took lessons and clinics from tennis director Susan Reasons.

The common bond between each player is the fact that they all lived in Mexico City prior to moving to the United States, but they had not met each other until they came to Chula Vista.

The team was nearly complete, but Gomez needed to find two additional players in order to field a full team with substitutes. Earlier this year, she received an invitation from sisters-in-law, Lizette Ferrero-Safa and Alexandra Safa to attend the BNP Paribas Open in March at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

“I decided to come with them,” Gomez said. “We enjoyed the tournament and saw (Roger) Federer.”

While at the tournament, Gomez learned Lizette and Alexandra (former Mexico City residents, who now live in Chula Vista) played recreational tennis and invited both of them to play on the team, which became known as the “Red Fury.”

“They joined on the last day,” Gomez said. “We did it at almost midnight before the deadline.”

“Since the beginning, someone called us Red Fury because of our (Red) uniforms. That makes us feel like we’re strong women,” Gomez said with a laugh.

The Red Fury won their league and advanced to the Southern California Sectionals where they defeated Ventura and San Diego North County to advance to the Nationals.

Following the victory at Sectionals, Gomez treated the team to a victory celebration dinner at El Agave restaurant, which she own with her husband, in San Diego’s Old Town.

The team also made the local news after winning Sectionals. Television station KUSI sent a camera crew to Chula Vista to do a feature on the team.

When asked about the team’s success, Gomez responded, “We are the same nationality, we like to laugh a lot and have fun. We are very close friends. We don’t get mad if one of us loses a point. We enjoy playing,”

This weekend at the USTA League National Championships, the Red Fury defeated the USTA Hawaii section and USTA Southwest section on Friday.

On Saturday morning, the team fell just short of advancing to Sunday’s semifinals as they lost a hard-fought 2-1 decision to the USTA Texas section.

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