Sportsmanship takes center stage at JTT Nationals
James Maimonis, Communications and Engagement Coordinator | October 6, 2017
LAKE NONA, FL- The Junior Team Tennis (JTT) National Championships feature the top one percent of JTT teams and players throughout the 17 USTA Sections. New England sent the four JTT Section Championship winners this year to the brand new USTA National Campus in Lake Nona, FL to represent the Section and take their shot at the national title. Two came back with Sportsmanship Awards, two came back with top-10 finishes, and all of them came back with unforgettable experiences.
Sippican Tennis Club (14U Advanced) and MadRackets (14U Intermediate) competed throughout the first weekend (September 22-24) while the North Shore Legends (18U Advanced) and the New Hampshire Rogues (18U Intermediate) closed things out from September 29 to October 1.
Following the weekend of competition, each age division awarded a Sportsmanship Award voted on by opposing coaches. ADVERTISEMENT Although winning might seem like the ultimate goal, JTT focuses on “how you play the game and respond to challenges.”
Bentley University freshman Connor Aulson, who led his North Shore Legends (Boston area) team to a 10th-place finish as a co-captain, was one of two New England players to take home this prestigious prize.
“Receiving the sportsmanship award is truly an honor, especially to be selected over all the other well qualified players, it is truly humbling,” Aulson said. “When I play tennis, I don't see the need to get angry or act out, and I don't see the point in getting too caught up in ones emotions because after all, tennis is a game that we all love and enjoy playing.”
Aulson was joined in recognition by fellow New Englander and friend, Jason Boucher, who received the Sportsmanship Award for the 18U Intermediate division. Boucher played on the NH Rogues team that finished in 13th place.
“I was especially thrilled to be awarded alongside one of my good friends Jason Boucher,” Aulson said. “We originally met at a clinic at the Racquet Club of Newburyport where I worked, and he is a great kid and certainly a well-deserved recipient who I had a great time catching up with over the weekend.”
Boucher echoed Aulson’s thoughts on both the award and reconnecting with one another.
“The sportsmanship award was a great honor. Just to know that I was one of the few kids to win it, on a national level, was outstanding,” Boucher said. “It was also great to see my friend Connor win it in the Advanced league. He is one of my older friends that I reconnected with in Florida and it was nice to see him again.”
NH Rogues coach Deb LaPress praised Boucher on this honor, saying it was the highlight of her trip.
“The best part was when Jason won the sportsmanship award. He is just that kind of kid, he doesn't even have to try to be nice; it comes naturally,” LaPress said.
Due to college commitments, neither the North Shore Legends nor the NH Rogues were able to bring their full squads, however it didn’t stop either from competing their hearts out.
In their second consecutive trip to Nationals hoping to improve on last year’s 12th-place finish, the North Shore Legends came in third in flight play. Their lone flight win came against team Delaware Nightmare from USTA Middle States, and they won their first playoff match against team ATA from Southwest to corral a spot in the top 10.
NH Rogues fell on the wrong end of narrowly-contested flight, which saw the four teams separated by only eight total games. LaPress’ team, in its first trip to Nationals, finished second in total sets won and individual position score, but came up just short in the games won column. The Rogues bounced back however, sweeping through the playoff flight to clinch 13th place.
“We may not have won but I hope we left a footprint at the USTA Nationals, even a little one, and it was a good one,” LaPress said. “The kids all had a blast, they loved the facility and all that went with it. I know I enjoyed it and have worked since 2012 to get to this level with a team from New Hampshire.”
MadRackets, the 14U Intermediate team from Madison, CT, earned the top New England finish of the championships. In their fourth consecutive trip to Nationals, the team took home sixth place overall.
MadRackets finished second in flight play, losing only to the eventual champions from Northern California. They defeated team Radley Run out of Middle States in their first playoff contest and came up short in the fifth-place match with Puerto Rico.
“It never gets old attending a National event. Visiting the National Campus was an honor and seeing the different teams from around the country, especially to play Puerto Rico after their devastation, was a highlight for our team,” said Coach Rick Fay.
“Of course we were aiming for first place, but of our two losses, one of them was to the winner, and we won two out of the five matches against them, so we were pretty competitive,” said boys’ singles player Sebastien Lowy. “I feel that everyone on our team competed, so although we didn’t get first, I am happy with our standing.”
Sippican Tennis Club, from Marion, MA, made their first Nationals appearance. They finished fourth in flight play and took home 16th overall. Taylor Thomas won Sippican’s only individual match throughout the weekend.