First Four League Teams Advance to Nationals
James Maimonis, Communications and Engagement Coordinator | July 11, 2017
LUDLOW, MA- The first USTA New England League Sectionals of the summer season took place from July 7-9 in Western Massachusetts. Mixed 18 & Over teams competed at Ludlow, Enfield and East Hartford Tennis Clubs over the weekend for a chance to represent New England at Nationals.
Both 8.0 and 7.0 teams qualified for Sectionals at Districts from June 24-25 and 9.0 and 6.0 teams earned spots by finishing atop their local flights.
Seven of the eight teams that played in the finals were from Eastern Mass., including all four championship-winning teams. They were: Woburn Blue (9.0), Shrewsbury (8.0), Dedham (7.0) and Waltham (6.0).
Woburn Blue 9.0- Captain, Josh Wilde
This was the first Sectionals appearance in three years as a team for Woburn Blue. The team finished 4-0 in flight play with a position score of 11-1 and defeated Hampshire Hills 3-0 in the finals. ADVERTISEMENT
“We had the same attitude as in years past, but we made more of a commitment to keep partners together, and everyone was phenomenal. This was a selfless team from the start,” Wilde said. We had a strong team across the board and we were confident, and we were thrilled everyone played well all weekend.”
In the finals, the team of Lindsay Ebbert and Aaron Bergeron won 3-6, 6-3, 1-0(10-5), Sarita Biswas and Chris Pugliese won 6-4, 7-6(7-5) and Katie MacDonald and Josh Wilde won their match 6-1, 6-2 to advance to Nationals.
Shrewsbury 8.0- Captain, Chris Terpko
The third time was the charm for Chris Terpko’s Shrewsbury squad, which reached the Sectional semifinals in each of the past two years and finally got over the hump in 2017.
“The goal of this team before the season was not just to make it to Districts or Sectionals, but to win it,” Terpko said.
With 19 players filling out the roster, playing time sometimes became an issue, but with the main focus of reaching Nationals in mind, the team pulled together in the same direction.
“Everyone put the team first instead of themselves individually, and that was the key. The biggest challenge was making everyone feel part of a team even though their playing time might not have been the same as some of the others. Everyone had a good understanding of how good this team was and knew what we could accomplish,” Terpko said.
The team finished unbeaten in Districts and didn’t lose a match all Sectionals until after it had already clinched the finals.
Shrewsbury defeated Weymouth In the finals by a score of 2-1. The finals results were as follows: Connor McCormack and Pam Jeppson won 6-2, 7-6(7-5), Stephanie Brown and Alex Uttard won 6-2, 6-2 and Kelly Day and Barry Gorman lost 6-4, 5-7, 0-1.
This was Uttard’s first year playing for Terpko’s squad, and Terpko cited the immediate impact he made.
“Having Alex on the team this year was really the icing on the cake. We made it to Nationals three years ago together on another team and he’s the reason I really got into Mixed,” Terpko said. “He’s talented, he knows the Mixed game very well and he’s been a great influence to everyone on the team.”
Dedham 7.0- Captain, Nicole Leveille
Dedham was back and defended its 2016 crown with a purpose. Last year’s champs split up after wining just one match at Nationals and had their sights set on another victory with a new team.
“We wanted to play smart, and our focus was to win this year. Everyone had the same mentality and they wanted it badly,” Leveille said.
With everyone brand new this year except Leveille, Sonu Kalra and Ryan Salomone, the team went 3-0 in Sectionals flight play with a 7-2 position record. They defeated Net Nuts from Rhode Island in the semis before beating Adirondack Green in the finals.
Sonu Kalra and Susan Koslow won their finals match 6-1, 1-6, 1-0, Kathy Fritz and Anthony Do won 6-2, 6-2 and Leveille and Larry Azevedo eased to a 6-2, 6-1 victory.
With the same coach as last year, Nadia Sablon, behind them and a year of Nationals experience under their belts, Leveille feels her team has a shot to make a run, but only if they “gel from the start and get used to playing outside early,” since New England matches are generally played indoors.
Waltham 6.0- Captain, Linda Calleva
The 6.0 Waltham team reached Nationals for the second consecutive year after downing the only non-Eastern Mass. team in the finals- Mixed Troubles from Rhode Island.
Linda Calleva and her husband Chris, along with teammate Moses Rwakiseeta, were the only holdovers from last year’s team, but that didn’t stop them from putting together another championship roster. They recruited friends and teammates from elsewhere and connected instantly.
They finished 4-0 (8-4) in flight play before taking a tight championship in which every match went to a third set super tiebreak.
Linda Calleva and Moses Rwakiseeta won their finals match, 1-6, 6-4, 1-0(10-1) and Joe Anderson and Lony Hyung earned a 6-3, 2-6, 1-0(12-10) victory while Amy and Dave Robbins dropped a tight one, 6-4, 3-6, 0-1(10-5).
“This was pure adrenaline, and awesome to do this with such great people. It’s been an amazing journey, and I hope having been to Nationals, we’ll do a little better this year,” Calleva said.
Calleva has truly appreciated every step of the ride this season after she battled cancer throughout last year’s Districts and Sectionals. She flew out to Nationals immediately after her final treatment and competed all the way into a third set. Now disease free, she is out there having fun with an entirely new outlook on life.
“I think this whole experience has given me a gift. I’m a much happier player, a better captain, a better loser, a better person, nicer and kinder and understand more. Out of a really bad, traumatic, disgusting thing comes a gift, and now I don’t really sweat anything,” she said.
USTA League players will compete next at the Mixed 40 & Over Sectionals from July 14-16 north of Boston.