New League championship Sends Three 40 & Over Teams To Nationals
James Maimonis, Communications and Engagement Coordinator | August 29, 2018
WOBURN, MA- The final three Adult 40 & Over teams have advanced to USTA League Nationals via a brand new Women’s 40 & Over Playoff put into place this summer. The volume of the continually growing 40 & Over division increased once again this year, forcing the Sectional Championships to be split into two weekends.
All men’s 40 & Overs and women’s 40 & Over 4.5+ teams competed at Sectionals from August 10-12, while the women’s 3.0, 3.5 and 4.0 teams battled for District titles the same weekend with a shot at the Playoff Finals on the line. The last three women’s divisions were decided from August 25-26, with the finals played exclusively at Woburn Racquet Club in Woburn, MA.
Two of those teams (3.0, 4.0) came from Lakeville Athletic Club in Lakeville, MA, which according both teams’ coach, Alex Howard, are the first two women’s teams to ever advance to Nationals out of Lakeville. ADVERTISEMENT The third team, which played at the 3.5 level, represents the Brown Billone Club in Easton, MA.
Here are the three women’s teams advancing from the Adult 40 & Over Playoff:
Kristin Levine captained Lakeville Green, the 3.0 championship team from Lakeville Athletic Club. The long and difficult road started at Districts for Levine’s squad, as they battled to a three-way tie atop their flight. Lakeville and teams from Chelsea Piers in Stamford, CT and Bass River Tennis Club in Beverly, MA all finished with an identical 3-1 (13-7) in-flight record, forcing the tiebreaker to come down to total sets lost.
After waiting nervously for 45 minutes after matches ended, Levine and her team got word that they took the top spot after losing only 15 sets to Chelsea Piers’ 18 and Bass River’s 19. They advanced to their first “Sectionals” in the 40 & Over division in their five years together as a group.
Despite finishing second, Chelsea Piers’ Districts performance was good enough to earn a wild card into the Playoff Final. After each team won its first two matches in the final, the championship flight would once again come down to Lakeville and Chelsea Piers.
With the teams each 2-0 heading into the ultimate head-to-head showdown to determine the 3.0 winner, both squads knew they had to leave their hearts on the court.
The wire-to-wire match featured two doubles third-set supertiebreaks, and ultimately Lakeville came away with the 4-1 victory.
“It was very nerve-wracking not knowing what’s going on with your team members and how they are doing,” Levine said. “When I was playing, we still had two doubles teams on, and you don’t know the situation, but then when you see them finishing and their reactions, it takes a little more pressure off you.”
It was a fitting end to a dramatic two-week rivalry in the making, and after all was said and done, the two teams showed the utmost respect for one another.
“We had some nice matches with Chelsea Piers. It was great to play them in the last match and a perfect way to end the weekend,” Levine said. “They were a wonderful group of ladies, and they congratulated us, said they were happy to have met us and wished us luck at Nationals.”
Last year competing at Districts, Lakeville could only dream about reaching Nationals. This year, with the addition of new coach Alex Howard, that dream became a reality. Howard joined the club in the spring, and Levine said he’s made a world of difference for her team.
“Alex played a big part for us this year. He is passionate, really cared about us and gave us as much practice time as we needed. We went over so much on and off the court with him, and we were finally able to break through and get the end result we’ve wanted,” Levine said.
Lakeville will be competing at Nationals from October 26-28 at the Mobile Tennis Center in Mobile, AL.
The 4.0 women from Lakeville will be joining their clubmates at Nationals, as they captured a 40 & Over Playoff title of their own. First-year captain Lee Dupre’s team was also coached by Howard, whom she said played an integral part in their success.
“Alex recommended a few players for us to add and helped guide us through the process of getting here,” Dupre said. “He kept us motivated, sharpened our skills and saw strategic things that we didn’t necessarily see as individual players.”
At Districts, Lakeville finished atop its flight with a 4-0 (16-4) record. The team held off second-place finishers, Farmington Farms from Farmington, CT, which went 3-1 with a 13-7 position record.
In the Playoff, Lakeville players picked up right where they left off two weeks prior. Dupre’s team earned an early 3-2 victory against Cedardale Health and Fitness in Haverhill, MA, which proved to be the difference in the standings, as both teams went unbeaten over their next three matches.
"That win was huge for us moving forward. I did my scouting and knew they were strong, so it got us on the right foot. We also lost to Cedardale twice in 18 & Overs, so on a personal level, we knew we also had something to prove,” Dupre said.
Lakeville picked up victories against teams from Wimbledon 109 Tennis Club in Walpole, MA, Woburn Racquet Club and River Valley Club in Lebanon, NH, en route to the title.
“We had a good crowd supporting us, and we were thrilled to win. It was the first time that this team has been to Nationals so we had to celebrate right there with some champagne,” Dupre said.
She added, “To be weeded out through all these great teams and to be representing New England at Nationals is such an honor.”
The team finished with an identical record in the championship flight as in Districts, going 4-0 (16-4).
Lakeville will compete at Nationals from October 26-28 at the Darling Tennis Center in Las Vegas, NV.
The largest field in the 40 & Over Districts was the 3.5s, featuring 30 teams in seven flights clashing for eight coveted spots in the Playoff. Ronnie Doherty’s team from the Brown Billone Club in Easton, MA earned one of them, going 3-0 (11-4) and becoming an immediate contender to win it all.
The team out of Brown Billone is a mainstay in the USTA League postseason, nearly winning Districts last year and reaching the finals at Sectionals prior to that. The difference this year was confidence and preparation.
“We had a very tough league this year, so by the time we got to districts, we were prepared and in warrior mode. By the time Sectionals rolled around, we just said, ‘hey, we’re on a roll, let’s keep it going.’ We grew more and more confident after every match, and by the end, we knew we could win it,” Doherty said.
Doherty’s team had the tall task of competing in one of two four-team playoff flights in order to reach the championship match the same weekend. In the flight, they set the tone early by outlasting a team from Manchester Athletic Club in Manchester, MA, 3-2 in the opening match. Manchester went on to win its next two matches and finish with a better position record than Brown Billone, but Doherty’s team did just enough, winning its next two matches by 3-2 counts.
“The win against Manchester was very important, and in some ways, we were lucky to come away with it. I didn’t realize at the time they were as good as they were, and just a few points decided every individual match. It put us in great position and we didn’t want to relinquish the lead after that,” Doherty said.
Brown Billone closed out the flight with wins against teams from the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, RI and Hampshire Hills Athletic Club in Milford, NH, sending them to the final against a team from Waltham Athletic Club in Waltham, MA.
Doherty’s team went on to win the match, 5-0, reaching its first Nationals in six years as a unit.
“It was a great feeling beating Waltham. We talked before the match and said we’d beaten everyone we’ve had to so far, there was just one challenge left,” Doherty said. “We felt we held our destiny in our own hands, and it was up to us at that point. We had come so far and had so much confidence built up, we just said, ‘let’s get it,’ and went out there.”
Doherty added, “We believed in ourselves and each other and were so supportive throughout. This journey started out as 15 tennis players and ended as 15 friends going to Nationals.”
Brown Billone will compete at Nationals from October 19-21 at the Arlington Tennis Center in Arlington, TX.
Check back soon for complete event photos.
See full results here.