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DMV Elite, representing the USTA Mid-Atlantic Section, established itself as the team to beat this weekend at the National Championships after a pair of convincing wins on the first day of play in Cayce, S.C.
With players from Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland, DMV Elite got off a great start at the USTA Junior Team Tennis U14 National Championships taking place at the Cayce Tennis Center and the Lexington County Tennis Complex.
Coached by Malcolm Greene and captained by Jeri Ingram, DMV Elite won its two matches convincingly in the Advanced Flight A, putting it in a great position for Day 2 when flight play concludes and teams advance to the playoff rounds.
DMV Elite beat RCC from Columbus, 60-24, and a team from Fridley, Minn., 60-6. The squad members are Trinity Grear, Mikeal Carpenter, Origen Grear, Langston Williams, Taj Byrom. ADVERTISEMENT Adrianna Peradoza, Mya Spencer, Moriah McDonald, Yvonne Lopez, Kai Goodall and Clervie Ngounoue.
Matt Barnhart, National Manager for USTA Junior Team Tennis, said his staff, the players, families and coaches all enjoyed near-perfect weather conditions on the first day of play.
“We could not have asked for better weather playing our matches at award winning facilities, in a town which has greeted us with some great southern hospitality,” Barnhart said. “Over the course of this event, we will be providing more than 400 matches for 224 players on 28 of the best teams in the country.
"This national event embodies what we want junior tennis to focus on – spirited team competition, friendship, achievement, sportsmanship, and fun! We try to provide the best experience possible for the player, team manager, and family member – from the guaranteed match play, to the food we provide, the player party, and emphasis on sportsmanship and team spirit.”
Coming to Nationals is a new experience for Max Shapiro and his MAC West team out of St. Louis. “We were slow getting started and had some nerves,” said Shapiro, whose team went 1-1 in their flight. “That can be expected and we have such a young team, with mostly 12-year-olds.”
Guy Parks and Gabe Higgs of The Racquet Club of Columbus have two teams here this weekend, one advanced and one intermediate, and the club will have an advanced team next weekend at the 18U Nationals.
The Northern California Section representative Louis Maunupau isn’t shy about calling his team the “Bad News Bears.” In fact, he’s proud of it. As the teams paraded onto the court during opening ceremonies on Thursday, Maunupau said he was impressed his players had made it this far.
“We are like the Bad News Bears,” said Maunupau of his advanced team. “We truly come from a public park where anyone can play. We upset a lot of country club teams to win our section and to get here, so it feels good.”
Two of Maunupau’s children are on the team, Olive and Daisy. Other team members are Callie Tzab, Daniel Gaffney, Max Belandres and Michael Medina.
Thirteen-year-old Tara Thomas, who plays for the Advanced Allegheny Aces out of the Pittsburgh area, said after two losses in flight play, her team will be hungry to win on Friday.
“We lost both our matches, but it was still fun,” Thomas said. “Of course you always want to win, but it’s fun because everyone here is so good, and they all love tennis.”
This weekend’s host is Jorge Andrew, the Director of Operations at the Cayce Tennis Center. Andrew is always quick with a smile and encouraging word to all the players, families and coaches. Andrew, a former Venezuelan Davis Cup player and captain, said his facility was closed starting Tuesday prior to Hurricane Matthew hitting the area.
“It wasn’t wet, but we decided to close because one million evacuees were expected in the Columba area,” Andrew said, adding that one tournament official from Aiken just down the road still had evacuees staying with them. “We didn’t sustain any damage, but it has really affected the area and there are some people still not able to go back to Hilton Head Island, which got the worst of it."
This is the fifth year the Cayce Tennis Center has hosted the event, and along with Andrew, another familiar face for repeat attendees is Lee Ward, the head tournament referee. Ward said at the captain’s meeting on Thursday that the U14 Nationals is his favorite event of the year. “It’s the first team event for most of these kids,” Ward said. “It is boys and girls playing together and this event is all about sportsmanship and the spirit of competition.”
Ward is an ITF white badge referee and the head ref for the University of South Carolina tennis programs. He does mainly college events. “Sometimes the coaches and parents need gentle reminders about sportsmanship," said Ward, "but overall, everyone is really happy to be here and just want to have a good time.”
ADVANCED FLIGHT STANDINGS
Flight A (games won-lost):
Mid-Atlantic (DMV Elite): 120-30
Midwest (RCC): 83-88
Missouri Valley (MAC West): 77-92
Northern WC (BLS): 39-109
Flight B (games won-lost):
Southern (ATL Fire): 118-33
Caribbean (Torrimar III): 83-82
Northern (Fridley): 65-92
Middle States WC (Allegheny Aces): 56-115
Flight C (games won-lost):
Caribbean WC (Torrimar II): 104-78
Southern WC (NC Panthers): 83-56
Northern California (Golden Gate Park): 71-101
Middle States (RED Warriors): 63-86
INTERMEDIATE FLIGHT STANDINGS
Flight A (games won-lost):
Missouri Valley (Tucker Tennis Academy): 118-47
Midwest (RCC): 104-83
Southern WC (Paces Club): 69-113
Mid-Atlantic (Racquet Scientists): 61-109
Flight B (games won-lost): Caribbean (Pirate Squad): 106-59
New England (MadRackets): 85-85
Hawaii Pacific (Mililani Monster Tennis): 79-88
Southwest (Cramer 14's): 62-100
Flight C (games won-lost):
Middle States (Delaware Nightmare): 108-35
Northern (BLS): 79-74
Texas (Spring Branch Tennis Center): 65-108
Southern California (Sunshine Aces G6): 64-99
Flight D (games won-lost):
Southern (CTP Cardinals): 100-87
Pacific Northwest (ETC Servivors): 68-109
Northern California (Willow Glen): 53-32
Eastern (World Gym Blue): 51-44