The women of USTA Midwest's 6.0 team will play in memory of their captain, Rita Hertenstein.
© Jen Pottheiser
Missouri Valley, meanwhile, will play for the recently-departed Hiroko McFarling.
© Jen Pottheiser
By J. Fred Sidhu, special to USTA.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. – Playing in a USTA National Championship is a happy occasion to celebrate - yet for the members of two women’s teams playing this weekend at the Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex, there is a touch of sadness.
The Missouri Valley Section women’s 6.0 team and Midwest Section women’s 6.0 team are playing in USTA League Super Senior National Championships with a heavy heart and maybe even a heavy tennis racquet as they each had a member of their team recently pass away.
Hiroko McFarling, a 79-year-old member of the Missouri Valley Section women’s 6.0 team, unexpectedly passed away at her home in Omaha, Neb. last month. Her death was due to natural causes.
As teammates described McFarling as a fast player who could cover the court and someone who was always happy and smiling, they reminisced about the time they attended a tennis camp together in Minnesota.
Team member Edie Gerbholz, her friend and doubles partner for 37 years, expressed her sadness in talking about McFarling.
"We spent a lot of time together. She was a sweetheart," Gerbholz said. "She should have been here and we should have been playing. I miss her so much. It’s so hard."
During their time at the USTA League Super Senior 6.0 & 8.0 National Championship, the team is honoring McFarling by wearing a black ribbon and a name tag with the name "Hiroko" written in Japanese.
Midwest Section Women Honor Their Captain
Rita Hertenstein of Morton, Ill. was passionate about tennis. She was a longtime tennis advocate and captain of numerous USTA League teams.
Most recently, she was captain of the USTA Midwest Section women’s 6.0 team. Sadly, the 75-year-old Hertenstein died of lung cancer last November, just six weeks after her team won the Midwest Sectional tournament to advance to the Nationals.
"She loved tennis. She was there for the high school boys, the high school girls and our local tournaments," said acting team captain Vickie Poirot. "She lived for tennis."
Hertenstein’s love for tennis ran deep. Even when she was in the hospital, she tried to convince the nurses that they should play tennis. She also spoke with team members about her team’s line-up and which players should play in different positions.
"The president of our Midwest Section has said if there was ever a person who should represent tennis and be a person to show that you can play it (tennis) for the rest of your life and enjoy it, it was Rita," said Poirot.
Team members said that Hertenstein passing has bonded the team together and driven them to give their best effort at the Nationals. "I think she’s with us here. I think she’s looking down on us," said a teary-eyed Poirot. "She’s the reason we’re here."
The Midwest Section Super Senior women’s 6.0 team honored Hertenstein by wearing a pin with their late captain’s photo on it.