USTA Missouri Selected to Host First-Ever 55+ Mixed Section Championship Event
For the first time since 2018, USTA Missouri will hold an adult section-level event when Springfield’s Cooper Tennis Complex plays host to the 55 & Over mixed sectional this November. The playoff is the first-ever 55 & Over Mixed Section Championship in USTA Missouri Valley history.
Section Championship winners across the country will earn advancement to the first-ever National Invitational for this event, which is set to take place in the Pacific Northwest in spring 2023 at the 6.0, 7.0, 8.0 and 9.0 levels. Leslie Echols — USTA Missouri executive director — and the district found out their bid to run the playoff was approved this past March.
“We are absolutely thrilled,” Echols said. “There is so much excitement among the players in both Springfield and Columbia. It makes the league season a lot more fun for the players because they know they’re going to be the home team. It’s almost palpable how excited everyone is.”
USTA Missouri secured the rights to host the 55 & Over mixed sectional for both 2022 as well as 2023. This year’s event will occur indoors at Cooper Tennis Complex on November 11-13. The 2023 version, meanwhile, will take place inside at Cooper on November 10-12. The last adult section-level tournament the district held was a 40 & Over sectional in 2018, according to USTA Missouri President Mallory Weber.
“We’re really looking forward to having it,” Weber said. “We have a fair amount of players in that category here. For us to have something here in their local area without them having to travel too much is exciting. And to have the rest of the section come and participate. … We’re pretty fortunate as we get quite a bit with the juniors. But for us to grow not only leagues but also the sectional championships, that’s really exciting.”
Alyssa Stelmach, USTA Missouri Valley manager of adult leagues, said the 55 & Over mixed age division is new to leagues. The National Invitational for this level was supposed to start in 2020 but got canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event was bypassed again last year. With the National Invitational now scheduled to occur for the first time, Stelmach said the recent postponements were “a blessing and a curse for USTA Missouri Valley.”
“In 2020, we only had two districts ready to play off for the Missouri Valley national spot,” Stelmach said. “In 2021, we grew to four districts with 55 & Over mixed leagues. Now we have six districts with 55 & Over mixed for the 2022 league year. So that downtime with championships allowed our districts to build the league exponentially in those two years.”