TO BE DECIDED ON DAY 3
Steve Pratt | October 15, 2016
CAYCE, S.C. -- The finals matches are set in the Advanced and Intermediate divisions at the 2016 USTA Junior Team Tennis 14U National Championships taking place at the Cayce Tennis Center and the Lexington County Tennis Complex.
A team from the USTA Mid-Atlantic Section called Elite DMV, made up of Washington D.C. NJTL excellence program players, will take on a Midwest Section team from The Racquet Club of Columbus in the Advanced championship match on Sunday. Elite DMV beat Southern representatives ATL Fire, 50-37, while RCC downed the Caribbean wild-card team Torrimar II, 51-41, in the other semifinal.
“We’re very excited to be in the final,” said Elite DMV team coach Jeri Ingram, whose team includes one of the nation’s top 10-year-old players, Clervie Ngounoue. “We are based in Washington, D. ADVERTISEMENT C., but have programs in Virginia and Maryland, so our team is made up of players from those areas, too.”
In the Intermediate championship match, the Middle States Delaware Nightmare will be contesting its first national title as it takes on the Caribbean Pirate Squad. The Delaware team is led by veteran JTT Nationals coach Gaby Brengle (pictured above), who is the mother of current WTA Tour world-ranked No. 71 player Madison Brengle.
Delaware defeated Northern California team Willow Glen of San Jose, Calif., 42-38, while the Pirate Squad from San Juan beat Missouri Valley’s Tucker Tennis Academy from Tulsa, Okla., 52-27.
The Delaware team was down four games entering the final mixed doubles match, but Bea Manjon and Garrett Wrede came up big in a 6-2, 6-2 win over the brother-sister team of Ivan and Nikol Obradovic to clinch the win.
“I was pretty nervous, but we knew we could do it,” Manjon said after the match.
Added Wrede: “I knew if we won at least 6-3, 6-3, we’d win by one point. The whole team came together for this win. I can’t believe we’re in the final.”
Ivan Obradovic just turned 12 last month, but stayed poised at the net and played solidly for Coach Craig Pasqua all weekend, including a 45-44 win over an Eastern Section team that ended in a 10-point tiebreaker win for the Obradovics sending a NorCal team to the semifinals at JTT Nationals for the first time ever.
“It was exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time,” Ivan Obradovic said, adding that he and his sister don’t get mad at each other and are always encouraging one another. “We talk about strategy. And I know she always has my back.”
Brengle said she didn’t have to say much to Manjon and Wrede before the final match. “They knew what they had to do,” said Brengle, whose daughter Madison once played Junior Team Tennis.
Other Delaware team members include Victoria Anyanwu, Collin Bowers, Darin Jawahar, Erica Synoski, Allaire Berl, and Alex Savich.
FRIES WITH THAT?
A San Antonio-area Whataburger franchise is the sponsor of the Texas (Spring Branch) Intermediate team and provided the T-shirts the players are wearing this weekend that read: “We’re From Texas, Y’All!”
It’s easy to see how the nonprofit Spring Branch Tennis Association director of tennis and Coach Kuda Sengai was able to secure the sponsorship. He is currently finishing up his master’s degree in nonprofit marketing at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, where he played his college tennis.
Speaking of fast-food chains, the local Cayce Chick-fil-A provided the lunches on Saturday, and the chicken sandwiches were a huge hit with all the players, coaches and staff.
BUILDING TOWARD A DREAM
Antony Lin, the captain of the intermediate team from Arcadia in Southern California, has a dream to one day build a tennis facility where his Sunshine team can practice and train. But for now, the team is happy to call Jefferson Middle School in San Gabriel home.
“This is the first trip for all my players and they are having so much fun,” said Lin, who is at his fifth JTT Nationals. “We would love to have our own home. That’s my dream. I’d pour my entire retirement into it if I could.”
During the first day of flight play on Friday, Sunshine beat Northern and lost to Middle States. The team manager is Richard Chen.