Florida's 3.5 Senior Snowbirds.
© Garrett Ellwood
By J. Fred Sidhu, Special to USTA.com
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – It’s an annual migration when people known as Snowbirds leave cold-weather states for the winter and head south to live in warmer climates.
Thanks to four Snowbirds, the Florida Section 3.5 Senior Women’s team reached the USTA League National Championships in only its second year of existence.
The four Snowbirds, Sue Kiss-Wielenga (Michigan), Laida Kearney (Connecticut), Sheryl Schreiber (New York) and Densye Abraham (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), all played a key role in the teams’ success.
The members of the team met at the Diplomat Resort & Country Club in Hallandale Beach, Fla. and formed a USTA League team two years ago.
"We all played together and had a good time together, so we formed a team," said Co-captain Rosalind "Roz" Amunategui. "Everyone gets along. It’s very social. We have a country club atmosphere."
One of the players who helped form the team was Kiss-Wielenga, a Michigan resident who also serves as USTA League Coordinator in North Miami. "We’ve established some great relationships and friendships," she said. "We really don’t get to practice year around, but when we’re together, we play."
Amunategui said, "When everyone is here (Florida), everyone goes out to lunch and we have parties during the year."
In fact, the permanent Florida residents on the team and the Snowbirds have bonded so well they have gotten together during the summer in New York. "One of the girls hosted a party and everyone came up there for a weekend during the summer," Amunategui said. "We all e-mail one another all the time."
In only two short years, the team from the Diplomat Resort & Country Club has developed into a top team and earlier this year, they advanced to the Florida Sectionals in Daytona Beach where they reached the finals.
They faced a team from Polk County, Fla. in the finals and fell behind early 1-0 as they dropped the No. 3 doubles match in straight sets.
As the senior ladies from the Diplomat Resort & Country Club dropped the first set in both the No. 1 and No. 2 doubles matches, their opponents’ friends and families began getting ready to open champagne bottles to start a victory celebration.
However, after being so close to defeat, both doubles teams came back to win the second set of their respective matches and then went on to capture match tiebreaks in each of their matches to send their team to the Nationals in Indian Wells.
"It was very close. We really pulled together as a team," said Amunategui.