2021 Eastern Tri-Level Sectional Results

Scott Sode | February 15, 2022

The men’s team from the New Jersey Region and the women’s team from the Long Island Region emerged victorious at USTA Eastern’s 2021 4.5, 4.0, 3.5 Tri-Level Sectional Championship, held February 5-6, 2022 at the Westchester Tennis Center in Port Chester, N.Y. Both groups now advance to the USTA League Tri-Level National Invitational, to be held March 4-6 in Omni Rancho Las Palmas, Calif.


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“Clinching the Championship was an amazing feeling,” said Jon Yu, the captain of the N.J. squad, dubbed No Strings Attached. “This was the culmination of all the hard work and long hours we put in together as a team the whole season.”


In Tri-Level Leagues, players at varying NTRP levels compete together on a team. Whichever team captures the majority of three doubles contests (called courts)—one at the 3.5 level, one at the 4.0 level, and one at the 4.5 level—wins the match. Heading into their final match of the two-day event, No Strings Attached amassed an impressive 3-0 overall record as they edged out opponents from the Metro Region, the Western Region and the Long Island Region.


Then, things got complicated. 


“The most challenging part of the weekend was definitely going into the final match undefeated with a massive target on our back,” Yu said. “We knew the pressure was on with the Southern Region team right on our heels.”


The Southern Region came into the final bout with a 2-1 record and a chance to even the score if they could secure a match win over their undefeated opponents. The Championship would then be decided by a tiebreaker: The team with the most individual court wins throughout the course of the entire event would advance.


“We did the math beforehand and knew we needed to win one court to go through,” Yu said. “We hoped it wouldn’t come to that, but it’s funny how life works sometimes!”


Indeed, Southern ended up claiming both the 4.5 and 4.0 courts, which meant that No Strings Attached would need a victory from 3.5 players John Kudrle and Colton Van Mol to secure the berth to Nationals. Luckily, they’d been here before.


“Our 3.5 teams have been bailing us out since the final match of the regular season,” he said. “It’s only fitting that they came to the rescue again to send us to Nationals!”


And they did it with style. Yu singled out Kudrle, who set up match point for the deciding court with an incredible behind-the-back shot, as “MVP of the weekend”. Ultimately, though, he noted that their overall success was largely a collective effort. The team—which includes some competitors who have known each other since competing against each other in the juniors—committed to late-night practices throughout the season and traveled to the Westchester Tennis Center a day early to get acclimated to the courts.


“I think the team bond definitely carried us through,” Yu said. “Many of us have known each other for a while now or have played together at some point in time. Doubles partners trust each other, and they trust [co-captain] Dan [Khoo] and I as captains to have the right strategy and information going into a match. Everyone brought something to the table that contributed to our team’s overall success.”


Forming that bond is what Yu has enjoyed most about competing in Tri-Level competition. 


“I love the camaraderie it fosters,” he said. “You have players across different levels coming together to practice, helping each other get better with the goal of forming the ultimate team. Every court is imperative to the team’s success. There’s no format like it!”

On the women’s side of competition, the Long Island Region team made slightly easier work of it, finishing with a 4-0 match record and ultimately losing just three of their 12 courts. 


“We headed to sectionals thinking it would be a fun tennis weekend, and not expecting more, because we didn’t have enough 4.5 players [that could be there for the entire event],” Captain Lisa Newell said. “The excitement we felt the moment we knew we won is something we won’t soon forget.”


Even though the scoreline seemed decisive, Newell noted that they really had to dig deep to earn it. 3.5 players Anne McConville and Jackie Iversen partnered up for the first time ever and eked out two tiebreak wins. 4.0 player Kara Parker subbed in on a 4.5 court. Erin Anderson Katzman and Newell dropped the first set of one court 6-1, then came back to win in a super tiebreak. And Mayo Hosoda and Jill Cohen clinched the championship in a super tiebreak of their own that extended 26 points.


“Everyone was a rock star,” Newell said. “They all did their part to get us the win.”


One strength: chemistry. The group, which mostly practices at Huntington Indoor Tennis, is quite close off the court, recently gathering together to celebrate Newell’s wedding. Newell said they’ll also regularly schedule dinner and drink dates, and she thinks the non-tennis time is what makes the squad so cohesive. 


“The best thing about our team is the fact that we are such good friends,” she said. 


It’s also why she enjoys the Tri-Level format of Leagues. Like Yu, Newell loves that she gets to play with pals who have different NTRP ratings. Now, she and her friends get to enjoy a little competition together on the opposite coast.

“For many on the team, this will be their first trip to a National event,” Newell said. “We are looking forward to playing some great tennis matches. And enjoying a much-needed mini vacation in the sun together!”


See more 2021 USTA Eastern Sectional Championship Results

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