FOR MID-ATLANTIC TEAMS AT U14 JTT
Dan Pyser | September 22, 2017
The USTA Mid-Atlantic Section is represented by two teams at this weekend’s USTA Junior Team Tennis 14U National Championships held at the USTA National Campus in Orlando.
The teams, both hailing from Virginia, bring two very different perspectives to this year’s event.
First, competing in the Advanced division and from Richmond, Va., are the Tuckahoe Eagles. The Eagles, coached by Mike Fuqua, reached the National Championships after navigating the gauntlet that was the Mid-Atlantic Section Championships.
“We had to face every tough team in the section, five real though battles,” said Fuqua. “As you know, only one teams gets to come to Nationals, so that was a great accomplishment for us.”
Among the five teams dispatched by the Eagles in the Mid-Atlantic tournament were the defending national champions.
On whether or not the team feels any added pressure to bring the championship back to the Mid-Atlantic Section, Fuqua isn’t fazed.
“Yeah, there’s some pressure. We just try to have fun and compete, that’s what it’s all about,” the coach said. “There’s a lot of talent here, a lot of great players. We want to do our best to represent the section.”
The Tuckahoe team handled a team from the Pacific Northwest Section in its opening match as it looks to bring the title back to the Mid-Atlantic.
From down the road in Fairfax, Va. comes the 4Star Junior Aces, who are competing in the Intermediate division.
Their path to Orlando and the National Championships was quite different – and almost did not happen at all. The team received a wild card into the Mid-Atlantic Section Championship before upsetting both the Virginia and Maryland state champions to earn a berth to the National Championships.
“We weren’t even expecting to go to Sectionals at all,” said Coach Grace Kim. “It’s always our goal to make it far but I never thought we would have this opportunity with this group. But here we are.”
This is the first trip to the National Championships for the Northern Virginia program.
“It’s amazing, a little bit surreal,” Kim said. “To be around all of these different players and coaches from around the country, it feels like more than just tennis.”
The team dropped its first match of the tournament to a traditionally strong team from the Caribbean Section. For Kim and her players, they’re just taking it all in.
“When it comes to JTT, it’s about the experience,” she said. “Every step of the way we want to win and do well but at the end of the day I think the kids realize it’s the experience that they’ll take with them for the rest of their lives.”