Eastern League team places third at 2022 Nationals

Scott Sode | November 14, 2022

Another week, another Eastern success story at the 2022 USTA League National Championships. The section’s 55 & Over Women’s 6.0 team—based out of the Rye Racquet Club in Harrison, N.Y.—finished in third place in their division at the 2022 event, held October 28-30 at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla.


“When we began the tournament, my co-captain Dolores [Masino] and I told our team, ‘Enjoy every moment and just play your game.’” captain Andrea Mancini said after the event. “That’s exactly what they did. It was just incredible.”


And they did it in dominant fashion. In early round play, the Eastern group claimed all four of their matches against lineups from USTA Midwest, USTA Northern, USTA Missouri Valley and USTA Hawaii—losing just three of their 12 courts overall—to head into the semifinals as the top-ranked squad out of the 17 in contention. The team competed so well, in fact, they won four sets by a scoreline of 6-0.


“Our goal was to play our best tennis, utilizing the tools we’ve worked so hard to develop with the Rye Racquet Club pros,” Mancini said. “I think our players did a great job communicating with their partners throughout the matches. Together they were able to evaluate various situations that arose and adjust their game accordingly.”

After their match, Eastern's Michiyo Terakado and her Missouri Valley opponent, Haven Willis, swept the court together.

One of the situations that did arise—or perhaps, more appropriately, rained down upon them—was inclement weather. With gray skies affecting the schedule the day prior, the team learned they’d be playing shortened sets in their contest against USTA Hawaii, the final early round match before the semis.


“Our players felt more pressure with this format,” Mancini said. “Sometimes it takes a few games to evaluate your opponents, but with shorter sets you have to start strong. Two of our courts went to super tiebreaks. These were very close matches, but at Rye Racquet we frequently practice tiebreaks, learning to stay focused for each point. Fortunately, a second court went in our favor.”


That tiebreak preparedness would also prove instrumental in securing the third place hardware. After a tough loss to USTA New England in the semifinals, the group faced off against the Mid-Atlantic contingent for a spot on the podium. Eastern would ultimately sweep their courts 3-0, but Mancini noted the contests were much tighter than the final score indicated.


“The first court had great rallies, but key points just went our way for a 6-2, 6-1 win,” Mancini said. “The second, we won in a nailbiter, 7-6, 7-6. And then in the third, we split sets and held on in a super tiebreaker. You can’t get much closer than that! Once again, tiebreak practice helped. We stayed focused during the high-pressure points.”


It turns out that focus in high-pressure moments had been a theme for the group throughout the entire season, according to Mancini.

“We were the second-place team at our local championship and the top two teams made the playoffs,” she explained. “The first-place team was quite strong and had beaten us during the season. But our team practiced for the big match, and we were able to come through all three courts. [After that], we knew we had the ability to go all the way through our regional competition and then USTA Eastern Sectionals.”


Now, they are a Top 3 team in the country in their division. But the result, of course, is just a small part of Mancini’s overall experience participating in USTA League competition. The camaraderie among her teammates is what she’ll remember the most when she looks back at the 2022 season overall. She noted that the group became well-known in the Westchester area for putting together a refreshment spread after home matches. Masino’s artichoke dip, Mancini said, had other players actually asking if they could join their squad.


Beyond a strong appetizer game, “this team is special in so many ways,” Mancini said. “They truly enjoy every aspect of the sport and work hard at improving their skills. They are a lovely group of women who are so supportive of each other. We’re very close and enjoy socializing after playing. The friendships I’ve made through tennis are invaluable.” 


Those warm friendships were evident from the moment the team set foot in Orlando, as all the Eastern competitors managed to include a tribute to “the Happiest Place on Earth” in their overall uniform.


“This was our first time playing at the USTA National Campus, and it’s so close to Disney World, we just assumed everyone would be wearing mouse ears, so we came with sparkling mouse ears,” Mancini said. “To our surprise, we were the only ones. One of our players needed reminding to take hers off for the match. She looked very cute for the warm-up, though!”



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