By Hillary Moore, USTA.com
To say that the ladies representing the USTA Pacific Northwest at the 2009 USTA League 4.5 Adult National Championships are driven would be an understatement. To say they are extremely motivated would be more accurate but still not good enough. This team has absolute tunnel vision with the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel being a USTA National Championship title. Although they’ve been here before, in 2007 and a portion of the players in 2008, the team has never wanted to win as much as they do this weekend.
Early in 2009 regular season play, the Seattle team learned that teammates Deborah Higa, Mary Konopa and Mariko Shimada would be leaving the Pacific Northwest - Shimada to Kentucky and Konopa and Higa to California. With the realization that they would be losing three of their teammates to relocation, the Seattle women sat down and honed a mantra that would carry them though an undefeated regular season in their local league and later an undefeated run through the section championships: “ONE TEAM, ONE GOAL.“ That goal is to win a national championship.
According to team captain Kate Batra, they have the assets to make it happen. “We are strong from court one to court five. We have 10 players on our roster and every one is going to play because we all have something to contribute. We‘re there to pick each other up. It doesn‘t matter if one of us has a bad day because we know if we lose one court, we‘re going to be confident and come back with a win somewhere else.”
That support is something that Shimada misses. She left for Kentucky shortly after the USTA Pacific Northwest Section Championships in August and is happy to be reunited with her teammates here at Darling Tennis Center in Las Vegas. “Being at nationals with my team means a lot to me,” explains Shimada. “It is very difficult to be away from them. They are all so nice and supportive. I’m just thankful to them for being a team and thankful to be a part of it.
The Seattle women are on the right track to securing a spot in the semifinals on Sunday. They posted a 3-2 victory over USTA Southwest in the first round of pool play. Batra says the team plans to keep it going by doing what they’ve been doing all season - focus, focus, focus. Even in Las Vegas? Sin City USA? “No problem. This is our last hurrah,” explains Batra. “We really want to win it for the girls we won‘t get to play with next year. It’s just tennis right now. On Sunday we’ll get out and hopefully we’ll be celebrating.”