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2006 3.5 Senior League National Championship News

Photos by Tammye Canada and Jeff Sikes

Congratulations to all of our players who made the USTA League presented by Chrysler 3.5 Senior National Championships. Nearly 31,000 players from the 3.5 Senior division competed across the country all year round in local leagues. Nearly 350 players comprising 34 teams (17 men's, 17 women's) represented their respective USTA Sections at this championship, which was held for the first time at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, Calif.

Below are photos of the top four finishers in both the men's and women's divisions.

National Champions: Southern (Roswell, Ga.)

Champion: Southern (Roswell Area Park, Roswell, Ga.)
Front row: Rick Sommers, Bob Pritula, Mark Gottlieb, Jim Wahl, Neil Paauwe, Fred Taylor.
Back row: Joel Schancupp, captain James Meidl, Aubrey Forlines.

Finalist: Northern California (Albany, Calif.)

Finalist: Northern California (Memorial Park, Albany, Calif.)
Front row: Mike Chin, Eddie Yee, Dave Souza, Tod Hara, Mike Storno, Ray Jeung, Barry Jarvis.
Back row: Tom Richardson, Al Pierce, captain Larry Tannahill.

Third Place: Mid-Atlantic (Virginia Beach, Va.)

Third place: Mid-Atlantic (Virgina Beach Tennis and Country Club, Virginia Beach, Va.)
Front row: Steve Leibowitz, Bill Stemple, captain Mike Aschkenas, Jim Laster, Bernard Pence.
Back row: Robin Yost, Tim Harrison, Dan Weckstein, Marcus Crawford, Robert Vinson.

Fourth Place: Pacific Northwest (Wenatchee, Wash.)

Fourth place: Pacific Northwest (Wenatchee Racquet and Athletic Club, Wenatchee, Wash.)
Left to right: Captain Roger Barnhart, Richard Scranton, Glenn Rediger, Scott Green, Ron De Haan, Jim Furman, Dave Schulz, Earl Tilly.


National Champion: Northern California (Stockton, Calif.)

Champion: Northern California (Westlane Racquet Club, Stockton, Calif.)

Front row: Grace Atwater, Shirley Walker, captain Connie Rishwain, Teresa Irwin, Yoshi Kim, Angie Torres.
Back row: Nancy Schneider, Debbie Greenberg, Judy Johnson.  

Finalist: Middle States (Mechanicsburg, Penn.)

Finalist: Middle States (West Shore Tennis Club, Mechanicsburg, Penn.)
Front row: Margie Firth, captain Gale Bear, Ava Neff, Nancy Roberts.
Back row: Linda Davidson, Gail Berra, Jan Dunleavy, Denise Dunn, Carolyn Bare.

Third place: Midwest (Cincinnati, Ohio)

Third place: Midwest (Five Seasons Country Club, Cincinnati, Ohio)
Front row: Sue Peters, Joan Cody, captain Barbara Raffaelli, Barbara Lee, Diane Lambrinedes, Karen Montavon.
Back row: Jan Bartel, Jan Jordan, Toni Gross, Barb Holman, Gayle Bowling.

Fourth Place: Caribbean (San Juan, Puerto Rico)

Fourth place: Caribbean (Arraq-Mune, San Juan, Puerto Rico)
Left to right: Maria Moron, captain Carmen Agosto, Brenda Rivera, Lorraine Agresar, Palmira Lopez, Glenda Robles, Vivian Purcell.

DAY TWO - Saturday, October 21
Need a towel? Jerry Krygier (center) accepts his grand prize at the Player Party raffle Saturday night from USTA League Committee Member John Gilpin (l) and Gail Marx (r).
Player Party Plunge: Jerry Krygier
When Jerry Krygier's name was called Saturday night at the Player Party to announce that he had won the raffle's grand prize - two box tickets to the 2007 Pacific Life Open final weekend - he had no idea he'd be swimming across the Indian Wells Resort Hotel pool to accept it. It just kind of happened that way.

The Intermountain captain was overjoyed upon winning, high-fiving his teammates. Prodded on by USTA League Tennis National Administrator Gail Marx, who told Krygier he should just "swim on over" across the hotel pool, the Fort Collins, Colo. native took a leap into Player Party immortality by diving right in to the pool. After the Indian Wells plunge, Krygier hopped up out of the water dripping wet, turned and literally soaked in the laughter and applause.

"It was fun," said Krygier, of his dip that was far from Olympic medal worthy. "I threw out my wallet and keys before, but I forgot my glasses. I came up out of the pool and didn't even notice they were gone."

The glasses were later fished out by Indian Wells Resort Hotel employees.

Krygier, who has been to the Pacific Life Open before, "definitely plans on going" to take advantage of his raffle luck. No word yet on whethere he'll swim there. The Intermountain team wasn't quite as lucky as their captain, going 0-3 at the event.     

Other winners at the Player Party were Robert Lietz (Missouri Valley) and Balu Iyer (Northern). Both Lietz and Iyer won racquets from Head/Penn just for taking the Chrysler test drives. The two were selected as the prize winners from the more than 200 who got behind the wheel of the USTA's presenting sponsor's vehicles on Friday and Saturday.
Mike Aschkenas
Frequent Visitor: Mike Aschkenas
Mike Aschkenas is a frequent visitor to USTA League Tennis Senior National Championship events. This weekend at Indian Wells, the USTA Mid-Atlantic captain from Virginia Beach, Va., is making his 14th appearance at a championship event since 1991.

A captain each and every one of those years, the 65-year old Ashkenas is a case study in how to maximize team play. An effective recruiter, organizer and player himself, Ashkenas has been a part of five national championship victories in either the 3.5 or 4.0 Senior levels, including the inaugural Senior event held in Dallas back in 1991.

“It’s amazing to me to have been so fortunate to make it here this many times,” said Aschkenas, whose 2006 team hails from the Virginia Beach Tennis and Country Club. “How many people get to say they’re a national champion at anything?"

Aschkenas was a late arriver to the game himself, picking up tennis after a sort of fitness epiphany struck him while playing poker with friends 28 years ago. Looking around the table at his buddies that evening, Ashkenas didn’t like what he was seeing his friends become: overweight, out of shape, and with little physical or competitive outlets. He vowed not to let that happen to him, and took up tennis soon after. Actually, from that point tennis took up Aschkenas, who became consumed with the sport.

“I took to this sport, like a duck to water,” said Aschkenas, who has been a team captain every year since 1988. “(Playing tennis) has been probably one of the best things that’s happened to me. The things it’s let me do and see, places all over the United States, it’d be hard to top. I’ve met so many wonderful people, people I’d have never gotten the chance to if it weren’t for this sport.”

Aschkenas is a diligent captain (a scheduling snafu aside on the first day here), one who does the research and pulls out all the stops to get his teams to the final day. He watches not only every single one of his team’s matches, but his opponents’ matches as well, charting tendencies and line-up formations. He organizes regular team practices twice a week, and even organizes matches outside those practices, just to get his charges some tougher competition. Like a true captain, he showed up Saturday with a thick manila folder full of the season results of every team in the 3.5 Men’s division.

“I try to come fully prepared,” said Aschkenas, who always lets every single one of his players on the roster compete at each championship event, Section or Nationals. “I never stop recruiting and that’s a key, because teams get broken up here, they move up if you’re good. I just ask that everyone work together as a team, and I recruit players who think that way or they won’t play for me. To me, the real thrill is putting people together so we can all share in this experience.”  

Aschkenas’ Mid-Atlantic group reached the semifinals, winning their flight with a spotless 3-0 record. They will play Northern California at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday.

Bridesmaids no more: Southwest women
The USTA Southwest women from Albuquerque, N.M. had a breakthrough this year in reaching the 3.5 Senior National Championships. Prior to this year, these net-rushing New Mexicans produced five straight undefeated local league regular seasons, lost three Northern New Mexico playoffs, and followed it up with two Southwest Section Championships appearances, but could not quite taste the national championships.

But in 2006, the ladies from the New Mexico Sports and Wellness Highpoint club showed their resilience, hitting the jackpot and made it all the way to Nationals after their sixth consecutive undefeated regular season, and their first Southwest Section Senior crown.

This collection of nine women aged 53-65 includes a couple of teachers, an airline attendant, a registered nurse, a tour company operator, an architect, a psychiatrist and two retirees among them. According to team captain Karen Lewis, this eclectic group of women also has some other interesting numbers besides the 15 years they’ve been playing together and the 10 grandchildren they have between them. 

”We have nine knees that are out, two hips, one foot and a wrist, so we’re a little banged up coming in,” said Lewis of her walking wounded. “We also don’t recommend celebrating with the Bryan Brothers chest bump, because that’s how one of our players got injured this year. Still, we were just happy to make it here.”     

The Southwest ladies lost a heartbreaker in their final match against Middle States, losing three matches in Coman tiebreakers to fall 3-0 and out of the semifinals.

Albuquerque's finest: The Southwest women may be banged up, but they still play a mean game.

Super Seniors More Super in Senior: Northern and PNW Men 
The Northern and Pacific Northwest men’s 3.5 squads i from the Minneapolis, Minn.-area and from Wenatchee, Wash. areas respectively, are proving that, like a fine wine, they only get better with age. All but one member on each of their teams, are 60-plus years of age, or “Super Senior” in tennis parlance. That means here in Indian Wells, they’re spotting a few years to their opponents, who only have to be 50-plus to qualify.

The interesting thing about the Northern and PNW Senior groups here is that neither reached the Super Senior National Championships, but are here this weekend at what would generally be considered the tougher event to reach. Northern captain Fred Biederman and PNW captain Roger Barnhart both led their teams to regular season local, then Section titles toearn their berth here in Indian Wells.

"We lost that Super Senior, but we're here so we're happy," said Biederman, who is making his 10th USTA League National Championship appearance.

"We're just a bunch of old coaches trying to relive some glory days," said Barnhart, who is one of five high school tennis coaches on the PNW team..

The oldest averaged-aged team in the Senior division here, both teams showed that age meant very little. PNW reached the semifinals on Sunday, and the Northern team played well, but did lose all three team matches in an ultra-competitive Flight VIII, where no team went undefeated. The same core group for Northern did reach the Super Senior National Championships last year.  

Maybe the PNW and Northern group just prefers facing younger opponents.   

DAY ONE – Friday, October 20

Indian Wells Tennis Garden: A Tennis Oasis
It’s not often that an oasis pops up in the desert, but for tennis lovers the Indian Wells Tennis Garden is just such a place.

This week, the site is serving as the host venue for the 3.5 Senior National Championships, and drawing rave reviews from everyone involved. That’s to be expected, considering this gorgeous facility nestled in the depths of the Coachella Valley, is one of the finest and most beautiful tennis facilities in the world.

As the annual tournament venue for the Pacific Life Open, the 189-acre, 22-court (20 hard, 2 Har-Tru) Indian Wells Tennis Garden complex built in 2000, is a multi-use facility, serving as home to concerts, meetings and trade shows. In fact, Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks and Jackson Browne will be performing on Saturday night inside the stadium court.

Make no mistake, the entire place was built for tennis, offering up accoutrements galore for net-rushers. The eye-catching mountainous backdrops, the manicured rows of azaleas and bougainvilleas that run between courts, and a year-round climate makes the Tennis Garden a perfect tennis home. The site has already been named the USTA Facility of the Year, back in 2001.

The friendly purple-on-green tennis courts are laid out in partitioned banks that offer prime viewing opportunities for spectators and tournament administrators alike. For players, the spacious courts are ideal, with plenty of running room to chase down those deep lobs or short angle shots. 

Indian Wells Tennis Garden is one of the finest tennis centers in the word, home to the Pacific Life Open, and this week, the 3.5 Senior National Championships.



















With the nearby Riviera Country Club in nearby Palm Springs dropping from the USTA League presented by Chrysler National Championships rotation in 2006, a replacement site was needed, and the Indian Wells Tennis Garden was more than happy to fill the date. Though the Tennis Garden doesn’t have enough courts to host the larger adult national championships, it’s perfect fit for the smaller 2.5, 5.0, Senior and Super Senior championship events.

“This place is absolutely beautiful, just a dream to play at,” said Pam Pryor of Greenville, S.C. (Southern). “You’re out there playing and you can’t help but look around to check it out. It’s almost hard to remember that you need to concentrate on playing it’s so pretty.” 

Medley of Talents: Juan Manuel Lebrón

When he's not playing tennis, Juan Manuel Lebrón is a singing and acting sensation in his native Puerto Rico.
When you bring together 325-plus tennis players from across the 17 different USTA Sections, you’re bound to get an interesting medley of players, and maybe even a few players who can actually, well, carry a medley.

For Juan Manuel Lebrón of San Juan, Puerto Rico, tennis isn’t the only thing in his list of talents. Lebrón is a successful recording artist/actor/comedian back in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and, this week, a member of the 3.5 USTA Caribbean team.

Though he didn’t see the court Friday, Lebrón was out there cheering on his squad, which fell 2-1 to the USTA Texas team from Lubbock.

Lebrón, 59, became famous back in the mid-1970’s when he made his debut as an actor, for a Puerto Rican comedy show entitled "En Casa de Juan Ma y Wiwi" ("At JuanMa and Wiwi's Home"). Lebrón, who played “JuanMa” acted alongside Awilda Carbia, and the pair quickly became one of Puerto Rico's most popular television comedic pairings. The show had a successful 14-year run on Puerto Rican television, garnering several Puerto Rican television awards for the role. He currently hosts a game show called “Atrevete” (Dare) on Telemundo Puerto Rico.

He’s also made a few appearances in American televison commericals for Gulf gasoline, Church’s chicken and Puerto Rican movies, and even had a cameo appearance in the 1995 Hollywood movie “Assassins,’ featuring Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Banderas. 

Lebrón is also an internationally renowned salsa singer, having recorded 14 CD’s in his career, which spans more than 40 years. He has performed and toured all across the United States, Central America, South America, and Spain. The Caribbean team is even using one of his CD’s as the Section present in the traditional gift exchange between teams.

Lebrón says he plays the tennis twice a week at the Parque Central de San Juan club and took vacation this week from his job to come partake in the 3.5 National Championship.

“I love playing tennis because it relaxes the stresses,” said Lebrón, who is hoping he and wife Nydia, a 3.5 player, can help him make his second national championship appearance, in next month’s USTA Mixed Eastern Regional Championships in San Juan, Nov. 17-19.

Marlene Sanders (Oklahoma City, USTA Missouri Valley) is on eight USTA League Tennis teams and still wants more tennis in her life.

Tennis Junkie: Marlene Sanders 
There are tennis junkies everywhere, and plenty here at this weekend’s USTA League presented by Chrysler National Championships. After all, you likely can’t get to here without being on the court more than the average bear.

Then there is Marlene Sanders of Oklahoma City (USTA Missouri Valley), who puts just about everyone to shame when it comes to her tennis junkie-dom. Sanders is more than your standard tennis nut. She gets to the tennis court every free second she can, logging time nearly every day of the week for League play. She played on eight different USTA League teams in the Oklahoma City in 2006, and even played on a World Team Tennis league.

Sanders is a regular at the Will Rogers Tennis Center, but she spreads the love, and often “drives to seven different places to play" in the course of an average week, and will play twice a day if the schedule allows. Still she wishes she had more time to play.

”I’m a tennis nut and I love playing USTA Leagues,” said Sanders, who is making her second appearance at National, having made one back in 1995 for an Oklahoma City 4.0 Adult team. “I love this sport because it keeps you young and active, and because the people that play it are usually so upbeat and positive. I also love to travel, and with USTA Leagues there's always the opportunity to come to events like these.”

Sanders took a cold turkey break from the sport about five years ago, because her work schedule became too hectic. That hiatus lasted about three years, but she came back last year with full force. 

"She came back and said she wanted to play, and got on nearly every team in the city," said Missouri Valley team captain Ellen Maddon. "That girl loves to play."   

On Friday, both Sanders and her Missouri Valley squad went 1-1 on the day, and are still in contention to make it to Sunday's semifinals. If not, Sanders will find herself with something she's not used to on Sunday...a rare day away from the court.

Jacksonville teams double the fun in Indian Wells
The strength of Florida’s 3.5 senior teams definitely resided in the northeastern wing of the state this year, as two teams from the Sunshine State’s largest city Jacksonville, made it to this year’s 3.5 National Championships.

The J’ville crews are led by captains Janie Brandsetter and Charles Drewry. Brandsetter, a USTA League National Championship veteran, isn’t playing this year after suffering from a knee injury, but she has a gaggle of players who have made national championship appearances before for Florida teams. The J’ville ladies play out of Marsh Landing Country Club in Ponte Vedra, a mere volley away from the Atlantic Ocean.

Drewry and co-captain Rosauro Macaraeg, led their squad to their first-ever spot at a year-end event. The J’ville men play out at Pace Island in Orange Park, an inlet on the St. John’s River, a near 30-mile jaunt across the I-295 Bridge to Ponte Vedra. 

The Florida ladies went 1-1 Friday, losing to Midwest before winning their second match against Mid-Atlanic. The men had an identical 1-1 record for the day, posting a 2-1 victory over Southwest before losing to Hawaii 2-1 in their second match. 

In true Florida spirit, the two teams cheered each other on when the other group wasn’t playing.

”That is what it’s all about,” said Macaraeg.

The men's and women's crews from Jacksonville, Fla.

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