By Sarah Gulbrandsen, special to USTA.com
Never discount the drive of a USTA League captain.
Yantise Jenkins put together a one-of-a-kind group of women less than six months ago with the help of coaches Erik Jensen and Ron “Lead” Jackson. Hailing from Charles County, Md., and representing USTA Mid-Atlantic at the USTA League National Championships, the roster is as diverse as it gets: players ranging in age from their early 20s to their 50s, with a blend of African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Caucasian heritage. They are lawyers, scientists, social workers, teachers, nurses and U.S. veterans.
To get the team of 14 players from two different counties together in one place, Jenkins and co-captain Chevelle Johnson have become experts in time management to maximize performance. Some team members must commute nearly three hours round trip to make it work, but complaints are rarely heard. Practices, along with matches, are fun experiences.
Team member Quesha Hollan came up with the team name “Sets in the City,” after which a logo was designed with a martini glass holding a tennis racquet-shaped toothpick and a fuzzy yellow ball in lieu of an olive. The team members proudly wear the logo on the back of their yellow uniform tops.
All for one, all for tennis.
“We’re like sisters in that we all have become the closest of friends on and off the court, in sync with each other,” said Jenkins. “In our wildest dreams, we did not expect to be at 2013 USTA Nationals, since we have only been together since April of this year.”
The team held four fundraisers in order to be able to get to Tucson, Ariz., for the 3.0 Nationals, raising thousands of dollars through events such as breakfasts and card parties. They have also established a symbiotic relationship with the Washington, D.C., suburbs where they live, taking great pride and responsibility in bettering their communities all year round. For instance, prior to traveling to Nationals, the team spent a day at the Asbury United Methodist Church in Brandywine, Md., to help feed the homeless.
Remarkably, the Sets and the City squad is made up of entirely new tennis players, some taking up the game as recently as two years ago. Coaches Jensen and Jackson have been around the game for far longer and have guided an inexperienced group all the way to the “Valley of the Sun” on natural talent and plenty of enthusiasm.
"We were looked at as underdogs because the other team never went to districts," explained Jenkins. "So no one expected much of our team. We really did not get a variety of experience because we constantly played the same people every week."
For Jenkins, there’s also a personal pride in reaching Tucson. Her husband, Bernard, played in a USTA National Championship just last season.
“I cannot let my husband outdo me, so I had to come to Nationals,” said Jenkins with a smile. “[Tennis] is a great way to exercise, and I get time to get out of the house and spend it with great friends.”