By Sue Levine
Gnomes are traditionally a symbol of good luck and the USTA Mid-Atlantic 6.0 team out of Maryland hopes that will be the case at the 2009 USTA Mixed National Championships.
Gnomes first popped up in gardens in Germany in the 1800s. Lately, they’ve been popping up in pictures taken from the Taj Mahal to Timbuktu, as part of a “Where’s Waldo” type gnome game.
Desiree Nichfula spotted her team’s gnome perched in the Ambulatory Care Pharmacy where she works in Rockville. Md. It belongs to her boss, an alumni of the University of Maryland. This particular gnome is licensed by the NCAA to the Maryland Terrapins.
Since it was a sports gnome, Nichfula said, “It was fitting he should represent the team” on the trip to the Championships. So she left her boss a note from the gnome, saying he was “going out west.”
The gnome has been other places. He’s been on the Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour in Waterbury, Vt., and gone down the 2,300 foot Alpine Slide in Stowe. But it’s this gnome’s first trip to a tennis tournament.
The gnome may wear the colors of the Terrapins, but he did not have a racket. So Nichfula spent the night before heading to Tucson, stringing a tiny racquet together.
The team has only been together since last fall. Many of them were friends for years, and they have played against each other when they were with other teams. But the players say team captain Julie Copfy is a “monster recruiter” and she got them all together on the same team.
They are very excited to have made it to the Championships in their first year together. Nichfula said, “It’s more than we expected.”
And hopefully their Terrapin gnome will bring them luck, as tradition holds it will. The team has reason to believe things are looking good. Terrapins are turtles, and when Nichfula walked into the bathroom in her hotel, there on the wall were pictures of - you guessed it - turtles.
The team takes that as a very good sign, indeed.