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NorCal Men Dye-ing To Play

March 26, 2009 10:43 AM
Nor Cal men in action
Nor Cal men's team
Discussing what their next hair color will be
By Jeff Sikes, USTA.com

TUCSON, Ariz. - Chemically imbalanced as they may be, the Northern California Men’s 4.5 team here in Tucson this week definitely has one thing going for them: they’ve got a style all their own.

Heads have been turning, eyes have been pried wide open, and mouths have been agape as the Nor Cal men walk the courts here at the Randolph Tennis Center, leaving passersby, fellow competitors, tournament staff, officials, and anyone within a sightline of them with that ‘just-witnessed-something-weird’ feeling.

Why all the commotion? Truthfully, you’d have to be hair to see it.

‘Dare to compare with the hair’ could be the Nor Cal men’s mantra this week, as eight members of their team have channeled their inner-Dennis Rodman to try to ‘do’ the improbable and get the Sacramento-based team all the way to the 4.5 USTA League National Championships title.

Jess Olivares, Mike Rizzari, Alex Agurto, Matt Donaldson, Loren Sullivan, Brian Ishimoto, Rosauro Lacap and captain Jeff Gillen lopped off their locks earlier this week, going full Mohawk. If that wasn’t enough, the team even splashed in colors the outlandish Rodman wouldn’t have dared, all for the sake of team unity.

The idea was born a year ago at the 2007 Northern California Section Championships in Carmel, as Ishimoto took the clippers to his head, a hair trigger decision if there ever was one. Player after player followed, and the team ended up having a clipping party that night.

Gone was the team’s hair, but a palpable esprit de corps grew in real quick, as the guys proved they were there for each other. The team reached the 2007 Nor Cal finals, and came within just a couple of points from the 4.5 Nationals , losing a tense, deciding match superbreaker 10-7. Like their do’s at the time, the team came up a bit short.

”We also had to pay for the maid service twice for that hotel room last year, because we left such a complete mess in it,” said captain Jeff Gillen.

Fast forward to 2008 and the team knew it needed to up the ante. So this week the team not only busted out the clippers and went Mr. T, but each of them added in a unique chemical color. Chartreuse, pink, yellow, orange, deep red, the team’s got just about every bit of the color spectrum covered. Even Donaldson, who is a little lighter on the top than his teammates complied. He pretty much has a dyed pink scalp.

”The sky was the limit this year for the team in a lot of ways,” said Bryan Ishimoto, normally a buttoned-down, clean-cut trial lawyer in Elk Grove, Calif.” “It’s all about getting a win, whatever it takes for us. If this makes us closer and gets us there, I’ll do it.”

Three members of the team work for a computer products company called Trius Communications in Sacramento, including captain Gillen and Loren Sullivan, who’s sporting a mowed, double landing strip look with a yellow-green tint. Sullivan had a sales meeting earlier a couple of days ago before coming out to Tucson and had to explain to a couple of clients the rationale behind the decision, not that it fazed him in the least.

The team seems to be enjoying the attention and freely admits it has accomplished what they set out to do…become closer. Mr. Orange” (Rizarri) even has a complete collection of orange shirts this week to match his do, and Gillen is going by “Captain America” to go with his title, and a faded red, white and blue look.

”I don’t think we’re all that self-conscious out here because this is a team thing,” said Sullivan. “We just want to have fun with this.”

Added Ishimoto: “I do have to be in court for a trial on Tuesday, and I don’t think this color is coming out anytime soon. I might have to go with pink stubble.”

For this weekend though, Ishimoto and the Northern Cal men are going to let the colors run together and see how far it takes them.

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