Road to Nationals: Mixed 18&O 9.0
A tennis team from Bloomington, Illinois represented the USTA Midwest Section well... by capturing the national title at the USTA League Mixed 18 & Over 9.0 National Championships held at the Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex in Surprise, Arizona.
The Bloomington team defeated teams from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and Virginia both 2-1 in the Championship match and semifinals respectively.
The team is co-captained by Sampa Das Ostrem and Joe Totten and features: Colleen Curran, Cassie Collins, Mrinal Das, Christopher Mecherle, Catherine Sturdyvin, Cole Buehnerkemper, Janelle Knight, Agne Cade, Susie Sorenson, Alex Totten, Hayden Esker, Sam Totten, Hannah Meece and Chris Doscotch. They play together at the Evergreen Racquet Club.
Helping us share her team's story, Co-Captain and doubles player Sampa Das Ostrem answered our questions about the team's road to nationals!
How long has your team played together?
Sampa Das Ostrem: Joe Totten, my co-captain, and I have put together a Mixed 18&O 9.0 Team for the past five years. Some of us have been playing together for a few years, but six (out of 16) players are new this year to the team.
You mentioned some of your teammates are related?
Sampa Das Ostrem: We have a father (my co-captain Joe Totten) and his two sons (Sam and Alex) on the team. We also have three sets of siblings – Sam and Alex Totten (brothers), Hannah Meece and Hayden Esker (sister and brother) and Mrinal Das (my brother) and me.
When did you start playing tennis?
Sampa Das Ostrem: Growing up in Houston, I started playing when I was about seven years old. My dad learned how to play taking a class when he was a graduate student at the University of Houston. He then taught my mom, brother and me. This was something fun that the entire family could do together. We have our own mixed doubles teams with my dad and I playing against my mom and brother. We still play every time we get together.
What do you love about playing USTA League tennis?
Sampa Das Ostrem: I love the friendships and relationships that are made. In addition, this gives me an opportunity to continue to play competitive tennis.
Have your teammates been playing tennis a long time too?
Sampa Das Ostrem: Most of the players on our team played in high school and college. Many have also played USTA for a while.
What teams did you play leading up to the National Championships?
Sampa Das Ostrem: After winning our local league, we played against Chicago for the Illinois State Championships winning all three courts. At the Midwest sectionals we lost the first match against Michigan (1-2), won the second match against Indiana (3-0) and then won against undefeated Ohio. Going into that match, we thought we needed to win all three courts to win sectionals. However, right before we got on the court we found out we just needed to win the match. We beat Ohio on all three courts in third set breakers. In the final standings, we tied with Ohio and Michigan but won by two individual courts.
What are some of your team’s strengths?
Sampa Das Ostrem: We have a diverse team made of players from their 20s to their 60s. We all love tennis and enjoy playing and hanging out together. Our team strengths are we have players that are very competitive and are match tough. They know what they have to do to pull out a win. In addition, the depth of our team is what got us to nationals and the finals. We could bring in players and rotate the teams around to any position knowing we had a solid lineup.
What’s your favorite memory from Nationals?
Sampa Das Ostrem: Once we won the national championship, the entire team was celebrating this incredible accomplishment.
How did everyone react when you won?
Sampa Das Ostrem: The joy and excitement on everyone’s faces were overwhelming. The pictures (above) say it all.
How did you play at Nationals?
Sampa Das Ostrem: I played well with a match record of 5-0. Without my incredible partner, Sam Totten, playing as well as he did, we would not have been able to win our matches including the third set breaker in the finals.
Will you disperse and form different teams to compete next year?
Sampa Das Ostrem: Coming from a district that is less densely populated, we do not have a large pool of players to draw upon. So we are planning on taking next year off since we more than likely will not be able field a team with the USTA rules only allowing 3 players on a team.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your road to Nationals?
Sampa Das Ostrem: As we play all of our matches indoors, which includes local league, state and sectionals, we were able to overcome the challenges of playing outdoors in the Arizona heat and sun. Coming from a small area with a limited pool of players, we feel humbled and fortunate to be able to achieve this great accomplishment. The past couple of years (not including 2020) we have come in second at the Midwest Sectionals which gave us incentive to keep working hard to get to the next level.
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