Video provided by: Matt Fults/Rival Films
Congratulations to both the USTA New England 18 & Under Advanced team from Stamford, Conn. and the USTA Missouri Valley 18 & Under Intermediate team from Oklahoma City on capturing their respective 2013 Jr. Team Tennis National Championships.
By Nicholas J. Walz, USTA.com & Sarah Houseknecht, special to USTA.com
It was one of those Championship Sundays that seldom come along, where one last tense match tiebreak separates a resilient winner and a hard-luck runner-up.
USTA New England’s mixed doubles team of Sayer Paige and Anna Rogers battled USTA Southern’s Zachary Kennedy and Summer Walker shot for shot as a tremendous crowd gathered at the Cayce Tennis & Fitness Center in Cayce, S.C. Teammates, parents, coaches and most of the event staff hung close to the chain link fences surrounding Court 16 to see a 2013 Jr. Team Tennis 18 & Under Advanced division champion crowned.
It would be the duo from Stamford, Conn., taking the ultimate tiebreak stanza and the match, 6-1, 4-6, 1-0, as Rogers ruled the net, refusing to let any of Kennedy’s forehand smashes get by her. The mixed doubles tiebreak victory would push the final game score to 42-41 for New England.
Stamford coach John Deflippo beamed at his charges’ response to the intense pressure.
“The kids get to play the matches as a team. They learned something today about playing for a team instead of just themselves,” said Deflippo. “The group is pretty young, so we’ll definitely work to come back and see if we can maybe repeat.”
Elsewhere, a stout squad of seven from the Heartland laid claim to the 18U Intermediate crown as USTA Missouri Valley’s team from Oklahoma City beat the USTA Southern team from nearby Wilmington, N.C., 55-36.
Last year at this same site, the Oklahoma City team finished just short of earning a medal. On Sunday, the squad more than made up for that disappointment.
“It’s a really cool experience. These kids worked really hard and somehow we managed to win the whole thing,” said coach Randy Painton. “Most of the kids were here last year and we placed fifth. Our goal this season was to come back and improve, which we did.”
The four-day event brought together the top 32 teams at the Advance and Intermediate level from various USTA sections throughout the country to one site. With more than 250 players competing in the tournaments, it’s one of the organization’s biggest tennis extravaganzas for youth players.
“To me, the biggest win was seeing how the teams interacted with one another and established friendships,” said Adrienne Di Menna, USTA Jr. Team Tennis National Manager. “It’s awesome to see players from different sections staying in touch long after they’ve left South Carolina. I think they all realize that we’re part of one big national team, trying to grow the sport of tennis.”
The Jr. Team Tennis National Championships will return to Cayce in October 2014, marking it’s third year in the South Carolina capital district. CTFC, the state-of-the-art 30-court complex headed by Director Jorge Andrew, was recently honored with the 2013 USTA National Featured Facility of the Year Award.