Middle States

Leaning on Experience

5.0 National Champions


When the 2019 USTA League Tennis season started, Ellah Nze knew she had a strong team.


But this good? It was hard to say.


“I knew our team would be strong,” said Nze, a former Duke University women’s tennis standout.


“On the local level and within the section, we had a great year and I felt like we would have a good shot in any match we played. Winning nationals was always in the back of our minds, but with tennis, there are so many variables. You never know.”


The national championship came, but the journey started long before.

L-R: Alexis Dorr, Paloma Escobedo, Captain Ellah Nze, Chelsie Yacks, Mary Coleman, Yulia Bolotova

Nze, who also works as the Director of Tennis at University of Pennsylvania Tennis Center, put together a team of friends with an incredible tennis background. The group of high-level players had USTA League and Tournament experience, and also a strong team-based, college tennis background.


Right away, the talent meshed.


After advancing through local leagues and winning Middle States Section Championships, it was time for the team to test that fight at USTA League National Championships.


“We had some really good players, but we couldn’t practice as much as we wanted to,” Nze said. “What it really came down to was how competitive our team was, and our fight.”


It turns out, the players also depended on their team-based experience.


“I think all of us enjoyed the USTA League season because it reminds us of cheering on your teammates and pumping each other up, especially from back in college,” she said. “We joke around that we are washed up athletes. But when you’ve played so much, you have a lot of experience to draw back on. We found ways to get it done and to win.”


The experience at USTA League National Championships was unforgettable (and difficult). “A lot had to happen for us to move on and continue to advance,” Nze said.

They continued to advance, and continued to play well. The Philadelphia-area based team advanced to the finals after an 11-9, match tiebreak win by doubles team Chelsie Yacks and Alexis Dorr.


“All of us were biting our nails and praying,” Nze laughed.


Eventually, they pulled through as national champions.


“Overall, I think we each really appreciated the total team effort and everybody understanding they have a role,” she said. “With our experience in college and through other avenues, we could all pull from the bank and know that we could do it. It doesn’t matter how long ago it was – you know that you’ve been there before and that gives confidence. We were all excited to have had this team and had this experience.”

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