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Heart Of America Team Crowned National Champions at USTA League Adult 18 & Over 4.5 National Championships
The USTA Heart of America men’s tennis team from Merriam, Kansas, representing the USTA Missouri Valley Section, captured the national title at the USTA League Adult 18 & Over 4.5 National Championships held at the Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex in Surprise, Ariz.
The team is captained by Rory Ramsdell and features: Michael Merchant, Adam King, Todd Blackwell, Mark Fries, Gary Stone, Grant Johnson, James Hancock, Thomas Verdi, Jacob Ohlhausen, John Bail, Tim Reynolds, Eric Nelson, Ryan Ward, Patrick Lenz, Ryan Marick, Grant Huddin and Robert Sheets and plays at the Genesis Tennis Health Club (KCRC Merriam).
The core of the team has been together for the past five years and has added a few new faces over the past couple of years. This was the team’s first trip to League Nationals, after being a mainstay at sectionals over the past few years.
Even though it was their first trip to nationals, Ramsdell said the team was a confident bunch heading to Arizona. While winning the whole thing wasn’t necessarily an expectation going in, the team felt that they could make some noise in the competition. They even bought some hats with the “Underdog” cartoon logo before heading to nationals to fully embrace the mindset.
“We were healthy and a deep team that felt that with the right match ups, some luck and play with composure in those ever so critical 3rd set tiebreakers, that we had a chance to get to Sunday semifinals,” Ramsdell said. “Especially if we could start building momentum by winning our first Friday morning match against Southern Cal Team that was an incredibly tough opponent.”
They achieved that goal of making it to semifinals -- and then some. They defeated a team from Phoenix 3-2 in the semifinals. The team then defeated a team from Louisville, Ky., 3-2 in the Championship match. After that, the celebration was on.
“The feeling of winning Nationals was such a cool feeling that will be cherished forever. The best way to describe it is a bunch of older men reliving their glory days and when we won it all, there was a bunch of hugging and crying,” Ramsdell said. “The coolest thing for me is seeing the bonds created amongst everyone on the team. The relationships built amongst the team and even the spouses that supported us through the entire season are so meaningful.”
That type of camaraderie is evident to anyone who spends any time around the team. Everyone on the team is in it for the love of the game and the opportunity to spend time with each other. They genuinely enjoy each other’s company and the friendships they’ve made along the way. They’ve spent the past month celebrating together and simply enjoying the accomplishment.
The only potential downside to their run to the championship is the decision they have to make regarding next season. Per USTA rules, any team that advances to nationals has to either move up a level for the next season or split the team up to remain at the same level. But for this close of a group, that was a conversation that didn’t even need to happen.
“Needless to say, it was an easy decision to stay together and move up to 5.0 league so we are back at it and competing on the courts after a well deserved break,” Ramsdell said.
Regardless of what happens next season, Ramsdell is just proud of the way his team competed and represented the section at nationals.
“Most importantly, we represented USTA Heart of America and USTA Missouri Valley with incredible sportsmanship and that we ‘Midwesterners’ can play some pretty high level tennis,” Ramsdell said.
Congratulations to everyone on the team on a great performance!
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