USTA League Presented by Chrysler
2.5 Adult National Championships
Indian Wells Tennis Garden - Indian Wells, California
October 5-7, 2007
Day three - Sunday, October 7
Caribbean men and So Cal women claim 2.5 titles
The record books have two new additions as the 2007 USTA League presented by Chrysler 2.5 Adult National Championships are now complete. The event, held at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, in Indian Wells, Calif., saw the vibrant men from the Caribbean and the home state Southern California women take home national titles.
It was east versus west on both the men’s and women’s sides as the men from Puerto Rico took on the men from Washington and the women from Puerto Rico battled the women from Southern California.
Despite strong winds on day one, early start times and extreme varying temperatures all of the competition was top-notch. With 1,323 women’s 2.5 teams and 126 men’s 2.5 teams across the country the 26 teams in attendance represented the best in the USTA.
The Caribbean men came out strong from the start. The eight-man team finished the tournament 5-0, with an individual match record of 13-2. After defeating the men from Intermountain 3-0 in Sunday morning’s semifinal, a final showdown was set with Pacific Northwest’s “Weakend Warriors” from Kent, Wash.2.5 Adult men's champion - Caribbean, front row (kneeling) left to right: Hector Dominguez and Johnny Mejias. Back row left to right: Cesar Febus, Javier Torres, Luis Quinones, Gabriel Enrique Ortiz, Manuel Jusino, Luis Gonzalez, Assistant Coach Adrian Gratacos, Head Coach Andy Rambla.
All three matches went down to the wire including a match tie break in the No. 2 doubles match. The Caribbean men took both doubles matches while Pacific Northwest’s Tony Shaheen posted the singles win. Both sides had a vibrant and vocal cheering section that kept the teams energized.
“The camaraderie was the highlight of the weekend and really, the highlight of the entire year,” Pacific Northwest’s David Herron said.
Teammate Daniel Benoit echoed Herron’s sentiments. “It’s been great getting to know each other better,” Benoit said. “We’ve formed some incredible friendships and that’s more important than any other element of playing tennis.”
The Pacific Northwest men finished 4-1 in the tournament with an individual match record of 14-4.2.5 Adult men's runner-up - Pacific Northwest, left to right: Anthony Hicker, Daniel Benoit, Tony Shaheen, Captain Jim Thorp, David Herron, Darren Griffin, Brad Belmondo.
The Caribbean men were ecstatic with their victory, the first for this group of men but the second in as many years for coach Andy Rambla and the city of Ponce.
“You lose some, you win some but every time you play you get better and that is the most important part,” said Caribbean’s Manuel Jusino. “We wanted this. We wanted to bring it back home and we got it.”
In addition to the first and second place finishers, the men from Southern took third place while the Intermountain men finished fourth.2.5 Adult men third place - Southern, left to right: Mike Hinton, Tim McNamara, Aaron Wright, Captain Shawn Mercer, James Green, Tommy Murray.
2.5 Adult men fourth place - Intermountain, left to right: Mark Packham, Coach John Lin, Captain Brett David Nielson, Randy Jensen, Johann Posch. Missing from photo: Jeffrey Bickel.
With only five players on its roster, the Southern California women were small but mighty as they took home the national title. The women, who play out of the Stoneridge Country Club in Poway, Calif., went 4-0 in flight-play before reaching the semifinals. The Southern women from Birmingham, Ala., put up a fight but So Cal was too much, winning the semifinal match-up 2-1.
On the other side of the bracket, the women from the Caribbean took on the team from Tulsa, Okla., who represented Missouri Valley. Momentum was on the side of the Caribbean women as they defeated Missouri Valley 3-0, sealing their ticket to the championship round.2.5 Adult women's champion - Southern California, left to right: Kathryn Gunther, Kathy Christofferson, Captain Sharon Laputka, Tracy Van Den Heuvel, Kim Poliakoff.
In another close final, the So Cal women took two of three matches versus the Caribbean. In celebration the women drank champagne and celebrated with their friends and family who made the short trip north to Indian Wells. “Every pair pulled their fair share and we got here together,” said team member Tracy Van Den Heuvel. “We wouldn’t be here without each other and the support we received from each other.”
In addition to the support they received from each other, the So Cal team received a ton of support from the sidelines. “We had lots of support from our friends at Stoneridge and our coach, Sue Whiteside,” Kim Poliakoff said.
So Cal finished the tournament 6-0 with an individual match record of 14-4.2.5 Adult women's runner-up - Caribbean, left to right: Coach Ruben Guadalope, Desiree Rosich, Iris Gonzalez, Ana Luz Rosario, Co-Captain Astrid Lee Vargas, Captain Brendaliz Diaz, Alicia Figueroa.
Despite the loss in the final, the Caribbean women had a great weekend finishing second with a tournament record of 4-1, and with an individual match record of 12-3.
“It was important for us to win as a team and represent the small island of Puerto Rico,” co-Captain Astrid Lee Vargas said. “It was also great to have the support of the men’s team.”
Rounding out the top four, the Southern women finished third while Missouri Valley finished fourth.2.5 Adult women third place - Southern, front (kneeling) left to right: Betty Bussey, Angela Chandler. Back row left to right: Daphney Wallace, Julie Hurst, Amy Barker, Mindy Shunnarah, Karen Cross, Lisa Lillie.
2.5 Adult women fourth place - Missouri Valley, front (kneeling) left to right: Natalie Zimmer, Wendy Buxton. Back row left to right: Laurie Simpson, Captain Virginia Graham, Coach Kelly Press, Sonia Turney, Heather Parmley, Angie Jarman, Kema Lee Hicks.
Adult 2.5 final standings
1. Caribbean – Ponce, Puerto Rico
2. Pacific Northwest – Kent, Washington
3. Southern – Raleigh, North Carolina
4. Intermountain – Salt Lake City, Utah
1. Southern California – Poway, California
2. Caribbean – Guaynabo, Puerto Rico
3. Southern – Birmingham, Alabama
4. Missouri Valley – Tulsa, Oklahoma
For complete and final results of the USTA League Presented by Chrysler 2.5 Adult National Championships please click here.
Photos taken during day two and three by Julie Jenkins.
Talent in the operating room translates to success on the tennis court
Randy Jensen (left) of Salt Lake City, Utah, leads a busy life performing brain surgery and conducting cancer research at the University of Utah Huntsman Cancer Institute. Given the intensity of his schedule it’s important that he has a place to go to blow off some steam.
That place happens to be the tennis court because what started as an attempt to keep up with his wife turned into a way to unwind. “I really just wanted to improve my game so I could beat my wife every once in a while. I didn’t expect it to be mental therapy.”
Jensen has toyed with the game for a while but it wasn’t until this last year that he played consistently. In order to make time for the sport he is falling in love with, Jensen adjusted his schedule so that he is able to work during the day and play tennis later in the evening. “I enjoy playing so much, it was worth moving my schedule,” he says.
In spending more time on the tennis court, Jensen met several other men at a similar level of competition and joined them to form a 2.5 team. Now the group representing Intermountain finds themselves in the final day of the USTA League Presented by Chrysler 2.5 Adult National Championships competing for the title.
Perhaps it’s Jensen’s prowess in the operating room that has helped him become such an asset to his team on the court.
“Tennis is a game of concentration and that is very similar to being in the operating room. When you are competing, you need to know how to respond to the situation at hand and you need to focus on your strategy and hand-eye coordination. It’s important to be able to think on your feet because you never know what to expect.”
Jensen plans to continue extending his talents in the medical field to his development as a tennis player. Through long hours working to find the reason brain tumors develop, late hours playing tennis and priceless hours making great memories with his teammates, Jensen has found that tennis is a lifelong game. It’s a way to clear his head, exercise and develop new relationships.
Tennis has also proven to be a great way for the Jensen family to connect as not only do mom and dad play but so do their three children. Jensen confides, “I’ll play this sport for a long time to come. I enjoy my teammates and my kids and I are still trying to beat my wife.”
Chrysler and Penn continue support of USTA League during national championships
Chrysler is enjoying their second year of league sponsorship. The automaker is the official presenting sponsor and official vehicle of USTA League tennis. Chrysler has been on-site at section and national league championships offering USTA League participants the chance to test-drive one of their vehicles.
Head Penn Racquet Sports is in their 20th year as the official ball of USTA League tennis. As the world's largest and only North American manufacturer of tennis balls, Penn has donated more than six million of them to USTA League district, section and national championships over the course of their 20-year sponsorship.
The USTA and its over 624,000 league tennis participants wish to extend a warm thank you to Head Penn Racquet Sports and Chrysler for their support in enriching USTA League tennis programming across the nation.
Day two - Saturday, October 6
Teams volley for position as finals nearThe courts were alive with action on day two of the USTA League presented by Chrysler 2.5 Adult National Championship at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, Calif. Play started at 7:30 a.m. with no delay and much better weather conditions. Mother nature kept the winds calm and the sun bright as form began to take shape in the competition.
At the end of day one the men from the Caribbean and Pacific Northwest went undefeated, each winning two matches.
On the ladies side the teams from So Cal, Mid-Atlantic, Southern, Texas, Missouri Valley and Caribbean finished the day 2-0.
Making the trip: Caribbean’s family and friends show support at national championship
In Puerto Rico family is the most important accomplishment in ones life. The men’s 2.5 team from Ponce, P.R., share the same value and exemplify it. Its eight man roster boasted the largest cheering section at this year’s national championship with 14 family members and friends making the long trip west. The “home court advantage” didn’t disappoint as the men are undefeated heading into the semifinals.
Known as the “city of lions,” the men from Ponce showed their fierceness on the court finishing round-robin play with a record of 3-0 and winning eight of nine individual matches. The success secured their spot in a semifinal match-up versus Southern at 7 a.m. Sunday morning.
Friends and family cheered every point and energized the team with congratulatory chants. Uncles, cousins, mothers, girlfriends and friends made up the loyal support system.
Team captain Luis Quinones said the trip to California was a first for all but one member of the 24 person entourage (8 players, 2 coaches, 14 fans). He also said it was a great chance for the friends and family to spend some much needed time together, a chance that the group seldom gets.
It’s in the blood
The family affair doesn’t end on the sidelines. Four of the eight team members are cousins. Quinones, Luis Gonzalez, Manuel Jusino and Cesar Febus are cousins who began playing tennis together earlier this year. The men who range in age from 28 to 39 were introduced to the sport by their uncle Carlos Gonzalez.
Now that more members of the family have embraced the sport, they’ve begun to hold weekend parties where family members square off on the court as well as on the dance floor. More than 20 family members and friends attend the weekly affairs, an event Quinones says are fun yet competitive.
In addition to improving their game, the cousins have helped introduce the sport to other members of their family. Younger cousins now pick up racquets and Quinones’ sister is now starting her own 2.5 women’s team next season – the first in their town.
It’s no surprise the Caribbean men are succeeding on the court; the man at the helm has a great passion for the sport and an even greater passion to succeed. Coached by Andy Rambla the men are the second team from Ponce to reach the semifinals in the last two years.
In 2006, Rambla led a 2.5 team to the national championship title. Rambla said winning again this year is important to him and to his town. He wants to bring another championship back to the town of Ponce not only to secure his spot in the record books but also to encourage others to take up the sport that he’s proud to support.
Tennis restores mighty heart
Many consider tennis a lifetime sport. For Lorraine Gonzales (left), the sport helped her get her life back.
Affectionately called “Chiefy” by her friends because of her in-charge and driven demeanor, Gonzales is in a battle to regain normalcy in a life that was halted by a heart attack.
An avid softball player for more than 25 years, Gonzales was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Athletics have always directed Gonzales’s path as she spent time working for the city’s park and recreation department as well as with the Special Olympics and Senior Olympics.
Known for keeping busy through work and recreational athletics, Gonzales thought her active lifestyle kept her in good health, but a sudden heart attack in September 2006 forced Gonzales to reevaluate her lifestyle as well as her outlook on life.
“I always thought I was healthy,” Gonzales said. “I never would have thought it could have happened to me. It was shocking.”
Doctors informed Gonzales that she would need to “take it easy” for at least six months. The thought of not participating in softball or organized sports was frightening to Gonzales but she stuck to the doctor’s orders, adopting a new diet and strict regimen of daily medications.
As Gonzales was adjusting to her new lifestyle she yearned to become active again. A childhood friend, Belinda Ferrero, took the initiative to watch over Gonzales in her recovery period. She was also the impetus that shaped Gonzales’ journey to the sport of tennis.Gonzales was hesitant to return to the diamond because as a pitcher the sport could be too stressful. Ferrero’s daughter Nicole, a freshman at Colorado College is an avid tennis player. She suggested that her mother and Gonzales begin playing, lending them racquets and holding introductory “lessons”.
“I was nervous when I first started playing,” Gonzales said. “I didn’t know my limits. I didn’t want to push myself, but I wanted to be competitive.”
After a few months of playing, Ferraro, a member of Shellenberger Tennis Club in Santa Fe, heard that a woman was looking to start a 2.5 level team. Ferraro and Gonzales contacted the organizer. Monica McLin, and signed-up for the team.
After only playing once per week, Ferraro and Gonzales began playing doubles together four to six times a week. The extra effort helped send their team to the 2007 USTA League 2.5 Adult National Championship in Indian Wells, Calif. The team is the first team from Santa Fe to reach a national championship in 17 years.
“Monica, Belinda and my other teammates are so great,” Gonzales said. “They really looked kept an eye on me and made sure I was comfortable and not pushing myself beyond my limits.It took time to build up my strength and my endurance and I had to be patient,” Gonzales said. “If it weren’t for my team, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Today Gonzales is in a great place. In addition to her success on the court, Gonzales has seen numerous successes off the court. She’s lost over 25 pounds and she’s regained much of her confidence. She eats better and is happy with the friends the tennis team has brought her. Most importantly she feels that her nickname “Chiefy” truly fits again.“The game gave me back my life,” Gonzales said. “Being active has helped me so much. It even helps me relax and sleep through the night.”
“I don’t really talk about the heart attack anymore,” Gonzales said. “I just try to take advantage of the opportunities I’ve been given and take time to enjoy life.”
The trip to the national championship reinstated Gonzales’ optimistic outlook. She and her team say the trip to California is very special to them. They couldn’t be happier to be here. The women Gonzales shares the court with don’t play the sport to fulfill their competitive sides, they play to better their health, create friendships and share in something bigger than themselves.
“Whether we win or lose this weekend it’s ok,” Gonzales said. “We’re all winners for being here. The last year of my life has been about taking baby steps towards recovery. We just need to take baby steps towards improving our game – and we will.”
“Carrie’s” Desert Dish - Day two
The top stories from day two of the USTA League presented by Chrysler 2.5 Adult National Championship.
All jeweled up
Winning Touch, a team from Allentown, Pa., held a jewelry fundraiser in an attempt to defray costs to the USTA League presented by Chrysler 2.5 Adult National Championship in Indian Wells, Calif. They sold $6,000 worth of jewelry with a net profit of $1,500. The eight women, who range in age from 35 to 62, did not know each other before the start of the league season.
The five members of the Eagleridge-Collier team representing Intermountain have a combined 20 children...soon to be 21. The women all started playing the sport less than a year ago and do an excellent job of juggling the demands of motherhood with the opportunities to hit the courts at the Eagleridge Tennis and Swim Club.
Playing through it
Talk about peaking at the right time. The women’s team from Hawaii is on a roll. The team didn’t play any regular season matches yet they won five straight matches at their section championship to reach the national championship. Team member Cristi Hamby isn’t letting an ankle injury she sustained on day one slow her down. With her ankle heavily wrapped in an Ace bandage, Hamby continued to play with the hopes of helping her team earn a place in day three.
The stars were out in Indian Wells and we’ve got the photos to prove it. Several celebrity look-alikes were found including Jean-Claude Van Damme, Stedman Graham and David Letterman.
Jean-Claude Van Damme or Gabriel Enrique Ortiz of the Caribbean men's 2.5 team?
Stedman Graham or Humberto Negron, husband of Desiree Rosich of the Caribbean women's 2.5 team?
David Letterman or Jim Thorp of the Pacific Northwest men's 2.5 team?
Day one - Friday, October 5
Desert Storm: Wind wrecks havoc on 2.5 and 3.5 adult national championships
They all had the same mission in mind but they didn’t think they would be facing the same obstacle!
Both the USTA League Presented by Chrysler 2.5 and 3.5 Adult National Championships got underway today on different sides of the west coast but mother nature created a common bond with wind gusts exceeding 50 miles per hour at both venues when play began early this morning.
The 2.5 competition, which is being held at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden (host of the Pacific Life Open), brushed aside the hallowing winds and swirling sand and 27 teams immediately stepped into action. There are 17 women’s and nine men’s teams battling for the coveted national title.
Meanwhile, five hours north in Las Vegas 34 men’s and women’s teams representing all 17 USTA Sections are competing in the 3.5 Adult National Championships. They are facing the same wind challenges as well as temperatures that are barely reaching 60 degrees.
The tournaments will run through the weekend with the Finals being held on Sunday.
“Weakend Warriors” treasure chance to shine
There’s a saying, “always a bridesmaid, never the bride.” The saying can be true for sports fans, too – “always the spectator, never the athlete.” But for Jim Thorp of Kent, Wash., the perpetual fan has gotten his day.
A father to four sons who play tennis and the husband of a former collegiate tennis player, Thorp never played the sport but has been a staple at his family’s matches and certainly their number one fan.
For years, Thorp’s wife Maryann has encouraged her husband to take up the sport. Maryann played collegiate tennis from 1979-83 at the University of San Diego and The University of Washington. After her collegiate days were over she continued to participate in a sport that she considers a “lifetime” sport.
But with each passing year her husband remained in the stands. Finally, behind her husband’s back, Maryann signed Thorp up to play USTA League tennis. She named the team “Weakend Warriors” and appointed Thorp the captain. Now, nearly a year later, Thorp and six of his closest friends who are also tennis newcomers have adopted the sport as their own.
A successful first season landed the team at the 2007 USTA Adult League 2.5 National Championship this weekend (Oct. 5-7) in Indian Wells, Calif. The Weakend Warriors play out of the Boeing Tennis Club in Kent, Wash., and are representing USTA Pacific Northwest.Thorp says his team of first-year tennis players is full of dads who have sat in the stands as a supporter and spectator for years, paid for countless hours of lessons and have spent long hours giving advice. Finally, it’s their turn to take part in the sport – and or course, soak in a bit of the attention.
A family affair
As Thorp and his team are battling in Indian Wells, his son Bryan, a freshman at the University of Portland (UP) is also dueling on the courts. In his first season as a member of UP’s tennis team, Bryan, 18, is playing in his second collegiate tournament, the UC Irvine Anteater Fall Classic.
Last weekend, Bryan competed in his first collegiate tournament, Portland Collegiate Invitational, where he reached the finals of Flight B.
In addition to Bryan, the Thorps have three other sons who all participate in USTA tennis activities. Their sons, Connor, 16, Mitchell, 14, and Jamie 12 are back home in Washington for the weekend.
Let the celebration continue
Reaching the National Championship in his first year as a participant is reason enough to celebrate. But Jim and Maryanne Thorp had even more reason to celebrate this weekend. The couple, who arrived in Indian Wells on Wednesday, Oct. 3, celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary on the same day.
“Carrie’s” Desert Dish - Day one
The top stories from day one of the USTA League presented by Chrysler 2.5 Adult National Championship.
The Lone Star state was in attendance on day one of the national championship, and they had the T-shirts to prove it. A fan club of five made the trip to Indian Wells with “Team Texas” T-shirts to support its team from Plano. Team member Tamara Chan and her husband Peter developed the idea and the T-shirts in an attempt to create team support and camaraderie.
Swappin’ in the sandsA favorite tradition among the attendees of the National Championship series is the “section swap.” Each section brings a gift to give to the other attending teams. This year a number of original gifts were traded. The women from Northern brought Minnesota Wild hockey pins, Eastern’s women’s team from Buffalo spiced things up giving their section counterparts bottles of their favorite hot sauce.
The women from Plano, Tex., handed out a Taste of Texas gift bags. The bags had a recipe for Texas chili, the state’s favorite mango salsa and some spicy Texas snack mix. Missouri Valley got creative with their gift making personalized “good luck” bag tags. Midwest’s men, from Chillicothe, Ohio, brought real Ohio buckeyes…the nut, not the football players.
Lost in translation
Worldly is one way to describe Intermountain’s men’s team. All five team members are bilingual. The men, from Salt Lake City, Utah, speak a variety of languages, including Spanish, Japanese and German and English.
Chapman no stranger to championship
The Pacific Northwest women’s team from Bellevue, Wash., is in good hands. Their coach, Jason Chapman, is a pro when it comes to the 2.5 National Championship. This is Chapman’s second year in a row bringing a team to the championships (2006 & 2007). Chapman is a pro from the Robinswood Tennis Center in Bellevue.