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3.5 Adult - Latest News and Photos

by Grant Chambers

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Sunday, October 2
Congratulations to the following winning teams for their perseverance, determination and great play!

Men's Final: Hawaii - Honolulu, HI d. Caribbean - San Juan, Puerto Rico 3-2
Women's Final:
Northern California - Hayward, Calif. d. Intermountain - Salt Lake City, Utah 3-2
Men's 3rd/4th Playoff: Midwest - Aurora, Illinois d. Texas - Dallas, Tex. 3-2
Women's 3rd/4th Playoff:
Mid Atlantic - Fairfax, Virg. d. Eastern -
Brooklyn, NY 4-1

1st Place Men - Hawaii - Honolulu, HI
Front row (left to right): Darin Kamiya, Justin McQuat, Benny Neumann, Byung-Ki Choi
Back row (left to right): Bernard Duarte, Ryan Perreira (Captain), Brian Hew, Thien Ton

1st Place Women - Northern California - Hayward, Calif.
Front row (left to right): Claudia Naranjo, Wendy Dong, Vicky Rieta, Pearl Leung-gima, Liz Medalle, Elaine Eigenmann, Lufelyn Montoya
Back row (left to right): Shari Kakiuchi, Sophia Fujioka, Fred Cruz (Captain), Tafuna Matavao, Paz Garrucho

2nd Place Men - Caribbean - San Juan, Puerto Rico
Front row (left to right): Ricardo Perez, Raymond Irizarry, Jimmy Vazquez, Alejandro Rosario (Captain), Carlos Trillo, Steven Diaz
Back row (left to right): Peter Santiago, Raymond Halais, Hector Olmedo-Pagan, Lucas Birriel, Juan Zorilla-Melendez, Larry Torres-Adorno

2nd Place Women - Intermountain - Salt Lake City, Utah
Front row (left to right): Cricket Rollins, Michele Nekota (Captain), Nancy McNally, Sundi Brown
Back row (left to right): Summer Wilson, Annette Cottle, Karen Nickolaisen, Jane Mangelson

3rd Place Men - Midwest - Aurora, Illinois
Front row (left to right): Jim McDonald, Martin Razo, Jonathan Baker, Sam Valeo (Captain), Stan Chou, Shaun Miller
Back row (left to right): Jeremy Cerasoli, Nathan Chaney, Jack Hatfield, Rolland Lang, Harold Edwards

3rd Place Women - Mid Atlantic - NO PHOTO AVAILABLE

4th Place Men - Texas - Dallas, Tex.
Front row (left to right): Kristopher Endress, Jeffrey Bender, Bob Bender (Captain), Mark Myers, Steven McIntosh
Back row (left to right): Joel Pickett, Lance Lockhart, Todd Frost, Matt Wixon

4th Place Women - Eastern - Brooklyn, NY
Front row (left to right): Leslie Wolf, Maria Concepcion, Babette Penalosa-Violan
Back row (left to right): Nelly Lee, Elina Kapostina, Liz O’connor, Huan Zhou, Grace Sih

Joel Pickett, Who Suffered Two Kidney Failures in 1995, Find's Himself in Semifinal Round

Joel Pickett grew up in Mansfield, Texas, a small town just outside of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. He played sports and particularly soccer for many years and through high school. Upon graduating from high school, Joel went on to attend the prestigious Westpoint University. A man raised and seasoned as a competitor, one who took life's challenges by the horns and conquered, Joel would be dealt his biggest challenge in 1995. Both of his kidney's failed. For the next 15 months, he would undergo Kidney Dialysis, a treatment which performs functions that a working kidney would normally perform, such as removing wastes and extra fluids from the blood. This treatment can be used while a patient's kidneys are restoring function, or until they receive a transplant. In Joel's case, his kidney's would never resume function. After 15 months of searching and waiting, Joel would finally receive a kidney transplant from his mother.

Even with the best matching capabilities, a transplanted organ will still be recognized by the body as foreign. To prevent his body from attacking or rejecting his new organ, Joel must take immunosuppresants for the remainder of his life, which suppress the immune system and keep it from fighting the new organ.

Joel, unable to continue participating in any form of contact sports, but needing to satisfy his competitive sports drive, would take up the sport of tennis. "Tennis is great for my health. It's a great way to meet new people and have a lot of fun," stated Joel. And fun is what Joel is having this weekend! His team, the Dallas 3.5 men's team from, is undefeated and are competing in semi-final action this morning! In one of this weekend's most dramatic matches, Joel's team squared off against the men's 3.5 team from Manhattan, N.Y. In a win-or-go-home situation, the team found themselves losing the first two individual matches to go down 2-0. Joel was one of three matches still on the court. He found himself down a set, playing singles against Val Azolli (former CEO for Atlantic Records). In a match filled with dramatic, fist-pumping fashion and unparalleled sportsmanship by both players, Joel stormed back to win in a 3rd set tiebreaker. With two remaining matches also coming down to 3rd set tiebreakers, Dallas pulled out the victory.

Joel's wife's name is Elke. They have a 6 1/2 week old daughter named Julia. Joel is currently a public speaker, working for the Lisa Landry Childress Foundation, started by famed Dallas Cowboy's coach Tom Landrey and his wife Alicia. The Foundation was formed in 1995 and focuses on expanding positive awareness of organ donation and transplantation. To learn more, please visit their website: www.passitonforlife.org .

Saturday, October 1
Day 2 is underway at the 3.5 Adult USA League Tennis National Championships in Tucson, Arizona. Cheers, tears and roars are increasing as teams compete to claim their spot in Championship Sunday's semifinal round.

Former South African Olympic Field Hockey Captain Wayne Grahm Finds Tennis

Wayne Grahm - former Captain of the 1996 South African National Hockey Team that competed in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, GA
Wayne Grahm, member of the Southern men's 3.5 team from Atlanta, Georgia, grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa. His sport of choice was field hockey, a sport with great popularity in the Eastern and European parts of the world. The sport is played on artificial turf, with a stick and ball, which is about the size and weight of a baseball. Wayne played on the South African National Hockey Team for 11 years, from 1985-1996. As captain of the team, he competed in the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. About six years ago, Wayne and his family moved to Canton, Georgia where he owns and runs a business called infotally,
which provides information technology services to the commodity inspections industry.

Just over a year ago, Wayne decided to give tennis a try. With a highly developed hand-eye coordination and a keen sense of anticipation and reflex, it didn't take long for him to learn. Just one year later, Wayne is a strong 3.5 level player competing at this year's National Championships! He compared tennis to field hockey by stating, "tennis is very much a reflex game with the need for hand-eye coordination. You have to be quick and you have to anticipate two or three shots ahead of the point, especially in doubles." He went on to say, "The USTA is an outstanding organization that does so much to bring people together through the sport of tennis. There is nothing like this in South Africa. Our experience here at the National Championships has been remarkable and really special."

Wayne's team came really close to making it all the way to Sunday's championship round. After winning their first two team matches, they were defeated this morning. Congratulation to the Southern 3.5 men's team on an outstanding year!

Midwest 3.5 Women Enter Nationals with 18-0 Record, Undefeated Through Round 2
Midwest women's 3.5 team says "THANK YOU!" to their 12 sponsors which helped them raise over $3,000 in support of their trip to Nationals
This year's women's 3.5 team representing the USTA Midwest Section definitely has a record to tout. Leading up to the National Championships, they have won their local, district, state, then sectional competition. And they didn't just win, they didn't lose a single team match for a whopping 18-0 record! Not wanting to blemish their record, they went ahead and won their first two round this weekend. With a win this afternoon, they'll secure a spot in tomorrow's Championship round.

This is the first time that a women's team from the town of Elkhart, Indiana has made it this far. In support of the trip to nationals, the team raised over $3,000 through the contributions of 12 sponsors. The entire team would like to deliver the following message to their supporters:

"THANK YOU! You have made it possible for our entire team to come here. We wish you could be here with us and we hope to bring home the national title!"

Their home court is the Eastlake Athletic Club.
Midwest women's 3.5 team from Elkhart, Indiana

Julie Delorenzo, member of the Midwest women's 3.5 team from Elkhart, Ind., sports a unique hat
Most Unique Hat!

There is no question that Julie Dilorenzo, member of the Midwest 3.5 Women's team from Elkhart, Indiana, takes the award for "most unique hat"! Her entire team dined at Pinnacle Peak, a Tucson restaurant known for their makeshift old west town setting, cowboy shootout reinactments and more. As you may have guessed, there was a balloon maker present. I'd bet that this is the first tennis racket the balloon maker had ever made!

Julie's team is currently in a tie for first place.

Hawaii Women Display Giving Spirit of USA League Tennis
Although not required, teams often give their opponents a special cultural gift from back home as a gesture of kindness before they play against each other. Shown here, the Hawaii 3.5 women's team give their opponents, the 3.5 Southern women's team, beaded necklaces from Honolulu, Hawaii.
Hawaii 3.5 women's team members give their opponents, the Southern 3.5 women team, beaded necklaces before their match

Friday, September 30

Day 1 of the 3.5 Adult USA League Tennis National Championships is underway in sunny Tucson, Arizona! The top 17 men's and 17 women's teams are competing this weekend for the chance to be crowned #1 3.5 Adult team in the country! On-court temperatures are expected to surpass 100 degrees each day this weekend.

Val Azolli - former CEO of Atlantic Records
Former Atlantic Records CEO Val Azolli Now Full-time Tennis Player and Coach
Val Azolli, the #1 singles player for the Eastern men's 3.5 team from Manhattan, NY, is a superstar among superstars. Through the 1980's and into the early 1990's, Val was part of a management team called Q Prime which managed the likes of The Rolling Stones, Rush, Def Leppard, Metalica and Queensryche, all mega-bands with high-level worldwide popularity. In 1994, Val became the CEO of Atlantic Records, one of the world's largest music and entertainment companies. For 10 years, he signed bands like Matchbox 20 and many, many more. About a year or two into his job with Atlantic, at the age of 40, Val started playing tennis. For a two year period, Atlantic required that Val travel to Los Angeles at least one time per month. While in town, he frequently took lessons or attended hitting sessions with Beverly Hills Hotel tennis pro and 1959 Wimbledon Men's Singles Champion Alex Olmedo. Over course of his 10 years on the job, he traveled all around the world for business, but always with his tennis racket close by.

Just last year, Val retired from Atlantic Records. As he stated, "I retired in order to devote my life to tennis. This is a great source of meditation for me." He is now a coach at Montclair Kimberly Academy in Montclair, New Jersey who's girls team recently won the New Jersey State Championship.

We asked Val to recall his two most memorable career moments:
#1 - As a manager for the mega-band, Rush, Val remembers back to the early 1980's to the first time they played Madison Square Garden. The concert sold out in an astonishing 20 minutes.
#2 - As CEO for Atlantic Records, Val recalled the times when he would be driving in his car, and he'd hear a song, for the first time, of a band that he had recently signed. "It was an adrenaline rush every time."
Val Azolli hits a smooth serve and a great backhand on the last point of his first round victory before congratulating his opponent, then being congratulated by his teammate

Luis Quinones, member of the 3.5 men's team from Phoenix, Arizona, has a natural "dreadlock" cooling system!
Naturally "Cool"
Luis Quinones, member of the Southwest Section 3.5 men's team from Phoeniz, Ariz. is the only player at this weekend's event that has a natural, human cooling system. Believe it or not, Luis's dreadlocks, which took him 3 1/2 years to build, do just that! On extremely hot days, Luis will soak his dreads with water. Much like a soaker bandana, the dreads soak up the water and hold it for some time, keeping his head cooler than it would otherwise be. Before his first match of the day against the Florida men's team, Luis stated, "We're excited to be here at Nationals. We're ready to leave it all on the court and show that Phoenix has some tennis!"

The Margarita's Turn Tragedy into Triumph

It's not easy for any team to make it all the way to the National Championships. Some teams encounter more than their fair share of "hurdles" in pursuit of the title as is the case with this year's 3.5 women's team from Niceville, Florida representing the USTA Florida Section. Team Captain Dana Lebeau stated, "we have had our share of tragedies along the road. Whether it be hurricane interference, deaths, injuries or other, we had a tough road in getting here!" Our condolences go to team members Cissie Jones and Breanda Meeboer who both lost their fathers earlier this year.

True to winning form, these ladies have turned their off-the-court tragidies into on-the-court energy. Plus, they've managed to have a lot of fun. Somewhere along the way, they adopted the team name "The Margaritas". From their attitudes to margarita colored uniforms, earrings, flashing pins and more, this fun group of women are here to have fun AND win!

Florida 3.5 women's team from Niceville, Florida

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