JTT Section Championships Prove Great Display of ‘Team’
James Maimonis, Communications and Engagement Coordinator | August 1, 2017
CAMBRIDGE, MA- The best of the best in New England JTT (Junior Team Tennis) congregated at Harvard University for a Section Championship designed to promote team values and working together for one common objective. New England’s 17 top JTT teams competed in four divisions from July 26-27 for a shot to represent the section at JTT Nationals to be held at USTA’s new National Campus in Lake Nona, FL in September.
“These players truly epitomized what it means to be on a team, from cheering for teammates and opponents to respecting coaches, officials and staff,” said Jon Kostek, Youth Play Manager for USTA New England. “We are so proud of the four advancing teams and are thrilled to have them represent the New England Section at Nationals.”
Teams from all seven New England Districts: Eastern and Western Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Rhode Island, competed in their local leagues throughout the summer for a chance at reaching their respective District Championships. ADVERTISEMENT District winners from each division: 18U Advanced, 18U Intermediate, 14U Advanced and 14U Intermediate moved on to compete at the Section Championships.
The following four teams prevailed, winning their divisions, and will be headed to Nationals: North Shore Legends, New Hampshire Rogues, MadRackets and Sippican Tennis Club.
18U Advanced Champions- North Shore Legends
For the second straight year, this team coached by players Connor Aulson and Alex Fizz has advanced to the 18U Advanced National Championship. The team comprised of friends from the Metro-Boston area finished 12th at Nationals last year was back hoping for another chance to compete.
“We all had that drive to get to Nationals again after getting there last year, and we’ve all gotten better,” Aulson said. “There were some nerves, but those disappeared in the first match and we all had each other’s support to make it easier.”
In their final season together before most will embark on their college journeys, North Shore Legends knew it was now or never time. The team cruised through its six-team flight, which brought a new element of competition compared to last year’s two teams.
“This year we really had to earn it,” Alex Fizz said. “We lost and gained a few players, so it was somewhat of a different team, but the same vibe. We were having fun, were loose, and had good energy going on.”
Despite the added opposition, the team failed to waiver throughout the two-day tournament, winning all five of its matches and dropping just one position (24-1).
With hopes of this year bringing more than the minimum three boys and three girls to Nationals like they ended up having to do last year, the North Shore Legends are poised to improve on their 2016 mark in their final season together.
18U Intermediate Champions- New Hampshire Rogues
The last thing Deb LaPress’ New Hampshire Rogues team expected to leave Harvard doing was preparing to book hotels for JTT Nationals in September. The Bedford bunch surprised even themselves after narrowly taking home the 18U Intermediate title.
“I can’t even believe that we did it. Just getting to Sectionals is exciting for these kids. I rotated the kids a lot and we came so they could all play at Harvard and get the experience, and we won,” LaPress said. “We had a couple losses but they brought themselves back up, and they are great sports and did a nice job competing.
NH Rogues won all three of its matches and stayed ahead of second-place Willows, 108 total games to 86. Jason Boucher went 3-0 in his matches, and even he wasn’t expecting his team to make the run it did.
“The first time I went to Sectionals a few years ago in the 14U, we got destroyed. We were on the bus and I thought there’s no way we’re winning this, and now we’re going to Orlando,” Boucher said. “The competition was outstanding, everyone played their hearts out, and so did we, and we just came out on top. Another day it might be another team, but we worked really hard for it and definitely deserved it.”
“We’re just going to just bask in the glory right now and then think about what we’re going to do moving ahead to Nationals,” LaPress added.
14U Advanced Champions- Sippican Tennis Club
It was a celebration of firsts for Sippican Tennis Club, which defeated Top Edge in Warwick, RI in the 14U Advanced final. It was Head Coach Jesse Gotlib’s first year at the club and coaching the team; it was the first year Sippican has competed in the 14U Advanced division; and it was the first year in nearly 10 years that the club has rolled out a 14U team.
“It’s an exciting time for the club and players, and you can see them in practice, they’ve improved throughout the summer. It was lots of these kids’ first time playing team tennis, and today we were really privileged to be at Harvard and we appreciate the experience,” Gotlib said.
Sippican defeated Top Edge by a game score of 40-22, taking all five positions and winning 10 sets to 1.
“They were very competitive and had some awesome shots, but our teamwork and having everyone cheering really helped us and was really nice,” said Sippican player Katie Holmes. This is really exciting because it’s a lot of our first years, so to start off with a win like this with our amazing coaches and their help, it’s exciting.”
“I have a big smile on my face now, and there’s probably going to be a big smile until Nationals in September,” Gotlib added. “We’re pumped and we’re going to bring it to everyone else at Nationals, so we can’t wait until September.”
14U Intermediate Champions- MadRackets
After rolling through the Connecticut District Championships once again, MadRackets was back at it seeking its fourth consecutive Section Championship title.
“I tried not to think about year’s past or the pressure and tried to get my team to not think about that either,” said Head Coach Rick Fay. “I just told them if they trust their training and listen to their coaching throughout the match, then we have a good shot at going back to Nationals.”
The squad wearing all white with their signature pink bandanas went 4-0 in the flight and indeed made it back to Nationals. They were closely trailed by Executive Fireballs, from Manchester, NH, but MadRackets pulled away on the final day, winning by 24 total games.
Captain Lindsay Riordan played a big factor both on the court and off for her team. Competing in singles and mixed doubles, she lost just one match in a tiebreak, and off the court she ensured her team was supporting one another throughout.
“Knowing how much fun Nationals was, I was a little nervous because I wanted to go back, but I played well and like I can, and so did everyone else on our team,” she said. “This year I was one of the older kids, so I had a chance to lead the team and help everyone and really make sure everyone was cheering and having a good time.”
Sebastien Lowy won each of his boys’ singles and mixed doubles matches and also took home the 14U Intermediate sportsmanship award.
The following players were recognized for sportsmanship awards, which were voted on by opposing coaches:
14U Intermediate- Sebastien Lowy- MadRackets, Norah Dumala- Field Club Longmeadow
18U Advanced- Brandon Sze- Ellington Thunderstix, Claire Reynolds- Nashua Swim and Tennis
18U Intermediate- Jake Twer- Apex, Cara Barmore- Essex Edge
JTT Nationals will take place from Sep 21-24 (14U) and September 28-October 1 (18U).
To view photos from the Section Championships, click here.