Eastern Team Wins Third at Nationals

Scott Sode | October 20, 2021

It’s third for the birds! Representing the USTA Eastern Section, New Rochelle Racquet Club’s 18 & Over 2.5 Women’s team—the Lovebirds—advanced all the way to the semifinals at the 2021 USTA League National Championships, ultimately claiming third place among 15 of the best squads from across the country. Their only team loss over the course of the tournament—held October 8-10 in Scottsdale, Arizona—came to the USTA Southern Section, the eventual champions of the division.


“We really were a team from the very beginning,” Captain Daniela Terminel said. “It’s all positive, right? Our mindsets were similar in terms of, ‘Don't forget that this is for fun.’ We'll do our best, and our best will take us wherever we have to be.”


Their best took them far. On the courts in Scottsdale they defeated top teams from USTA Florida, USTA Intermountain, USTA Missouri Valley and USTA Northern California, ceding just two of the twelve doubles matches they contested overall. Terminel credits the aforementioned group chemistry, as well as exemplary instruction and strategy from coaches Brian Bradley, Adam Homan and Dean Won, for the strong run of form.


“Dean and I were a good pair because Dean is very cerebral and strategic and direct about what the situation is,” Bradley explained. “And I was more like, ‘Have fun, I believe in you and what you’ve learned, go out there and trust that.’ I know how pressure-filled it can be, when you see all these intense teams that have names on the backs of their shirts. It’s helpful to have two different coaches there. One who will keep you grounded and another who will keep you loose and relaxed.”


Terminel also cites the support they received from other fellow USTA Eastern League competitors in the lead-up to the competition for propelling them forward.

“In preparation for Nationals a lot of players at the 3.0 and 3.5 level spent time with us,” she said. “They played matches with us and shared tips, which was really fantastic. It showed how everybody at that point was all ‘Eastern’, regardless of club.”


According to Terminel, the biggest challenge the team faced at Nationals was not necessarily an opponent, but rather, the quirks of League championship scheduling. Just after losing in the semis, the Lovebirds barely had a moment to process what had happened before heading back out to fight for third place.


“The [semifinals defeat] was difficult, because we really thought we could do it,” Terminel said. “As a team we had very few losses the whole year, so it was kind of the first time we were dealing with a big loss. I’m not going to lie, that was tough. We were so excited and so hopeful about bringing first place to Eastern. But then we had one hour between that [and the matches to decide third place], so we had to say, ‘You know what, there were 449 teams, and 17 made it to nationals. Four made it to this [final] day. And we have the opportunity to be third.”’

Ultimately, they capitalized on the opportunity, winning all three of their matches (one singles and two doubles) against Intermountain to finish in the top three. 


“It was amazing the way they bounced back,” Bradley said. “I thought that was great to see, the lack of dwelling and the acknowledgment of the business that still needs to be done...everybody kind of regrouped and recentered. We wanted third, and we did not want fourth. We had to shift our goals pretty quickly, but we were really mindful about it.”


Even if they weren’t used to tough losses, it wasn’t the first time the Lovebirds displayed resilience; at their League Regional Championships earlier in the summer, the team fought off two match points to ultimately survive and advance to Sectionals. That result had everyone “jumping around like kids,” said Terminel.


“If we lost one of those two points we would have been out of the whole thing,” she said. “It was very dramatic. And we overcame that. So when that happened, it was truly amazing.” 


For Bradley, the Lovebirds’ dream season—from regionals to sectionals to third in the country—is validation that he can build a team from the ground up. As a young coach, he too was making his first trip to USTA League Nationals. “I was there for a lot of these players’ first tennis clinics, or first tennis clinics in many years,” he said. “That felt really great, that I was able to help people find their game and find their rhythm.”


One of those people was Terminel, who, astoundingly, only really picked up the sport a year prior. She actually grew up playing soccer in Mexico City and continued to play socially when she moved to New York. Beginning to feel like she was outgrowing it, she started looking for a physical activity that was a little less rough on the body but that could still provide a really robust workout. She participated in some tennis clinics at the New Rochelle Racquet Club, and before long, a friend invited her to try USTA Leagues. Terminel initially joined up because she loves the thrill of competition. Ultimately, she ended up getting something much larger out of it.


“I made new friends," she said. "Not just acquaintances, but friends. We had a lot of fun in between [matches]! We had amazing dinners, great wine nights, great adventures. At Nationals, we had the chance to explore Scottsdale. [Playing Leagues] was just like what our coaches told us: ‘It's about having fun. It's competing, it's sportsmanship. It's getting better [at the game], but having fun while doing it.’”

Skip Advertisement


Related Articles

  • 18 & Over 10.0 Mixed Champions: Metro Region
    League Sectional Results
    September 28, 2023
    2023 Eastern League Sectional Championships are in full swing! Throughout the summer, USTA Eastern League teams from all of Eastern’s six regions are competing for the chance to represent the section at the National Championships. Check this page for the latest results, photos and more. Read More
  • Long Island-based teams swept all four divisions at the 2023 USTA Eastern Junior Team Tennis (JTT) Sectional Championships, held June 17-18 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Read More
  • The USTA has launched its new Flex App in the NYC/Metro area. Download the app and join a local USTA Flex box league today! Read More