MadRackets Look To Continue
Successful JTT Nationals Run
James Maimonis, Communications and Engagement Coordinator | November 1, 2018
MADISON, CT- Very rarely in New England Junior Team Tennis (JTT) do we see dynasties. Players age out every year and new waves enter constantly. And when you find that one star player who can lead your team/club to a District or Sectional Championship, it’s near impossible to replace him/her when the time comes.
Madison Racquet & Swim Club Club in Madison, CT has been the exception in New England JTT and is the one club that has maintained constant success over the last decade. For each of the past four years, the club's director of tennis and coach, Rick Fay, has led his MadRackets 14U Intermediate team to the New England Sectional Championships and has had praiseworthy results at Nationals. The team finished sixth the past two years and came in second overall the year prior.
Fay has gone to Nationals five times in total with MadRackets, and he says the key for him is developing his players the right way.ADVERTISEMENT
“We have a good grassroots program with the little kids coming up. It starts with the red ball, then they go to orange, green dot and yellow, and before we know it, they’re in the 14s and 18s,” Fay said. “In the program, our little kids look up to the kids who are going to Nationals, and it’s important as a program because it really gives them something to look forward to. As the older kids keep progressing out, we always have the younger kids coming in.”
This year’s team is slightly different, as it competed in the advanced division for the first time this year and will also feature three first-time Nationals players. With singles players Sebastien Lowy and Ava Esposito making runs at New England Junior Sectionals, including Esposito winning the 12s division, their ratings neared or crossed the JTT intermediate threshold. So rather than excluding them from the team in 2018, Fay decided to challenge the rest of his players to play up a division. In addition, he added Will de Chabert, Claire Langille and Breanna Colonese-DiBello.
“It has been a pretty easy transition. They’ve seen what the others have done in the past and the kids that are coming up through the program can’t wait to get on the team and see where they can take the next generation of kids in USTA at the JTT level,” Fay said. “All of our players are strong, and the group gets along really well. They all like to be with each other and participate as a team. The energy is great.”
Fay added, “Our staff is really great to work with. Every staff member has a lot to do with each kid going to Nationals, so it’s truly a team effort.”
The expectation is high for Madison this year, as it is every year with the model Fay brings.
“Expectations going down are really to try and make it into the top eight after the first three matches. It’s going to be tough, but overall I think we have a good possibility. Everybody has to play at their best and come through under pressure but I think we can do that,” he said.
Oftentimes with sustained success at an elite level comes a compromise in sportsmanship, however that is far from the case at Madison. Fay requires his players to display good sportsmanship at all times and show respect for their opponents and the game of tennis.
“Sportsmanship is huge for us. We try to nip that in the bud at an early age. As a tournament director when I see bad sportsmanship, especially from our kids, I sit them down and we talk about it. I truly believe tennis is a special sport and we should treat it with respect, so we want each individual that’s playing on the team to honor the game and honor the history of the game.”
MadRackets defeated the defending 14U Advanced champions from Sippican Tennis Club at Sectionals in August to earn their fist Nationals berth in the advanced division. The team will compete at Nationals at the USTA National Tennis Center in Orlando, FL from November 2-4.
Meet the MadRackets team:
Bella Vejar, 14, Madison, CT
Favorite Tennis Player- I love Venus Williams. I love her aspirations and who she chooses to be and who she represents.
Years playing tennis- 11 years
Years playing JTT- 6 years
Best part about playing JTT- It’s my teammates. You’re in this environment where everyone is accepting of you and you’re with all these people that want the best from you. The coaches work you really hard but they just want the best from you. And my teammates are always willing to support me.
What are your tennis goals? I’d love to play in college. Tennis is always something I can rely on and I’d love to continue that through college and throughout my life.
Hobbies other than tennis- I really like to read and write.
What makes this team to special or unique? Our relationaships with each other. I’ve known all the girls for the longest time. Ava Esposito was the first girl I ever played against in a tournament, and a few of the players are in some of my classes. We have such good relationships with each other, and it helps on the court, especially in doubles.
What are you most looking forward to at Nationals? I love being there with everyone on my team. They aren’t just people you’re playing tennis with, they’re your friends and like your second family. I went last year and I’m even closer with everyone this year, so it’s going to be so much fun to be together.
Ava Esposito, 13, Branford, CT
Favorite Tennis Player- Serena Williams or Roger Federer
Years playing tennis- 7 years
Years playing JTT- 4 years
Best part about playing JTT- You get to play with your friends that you know from your club and it’s just a great bonding experience.
What are your tennis goals? To do really well in tournaments in the older age groups and hopefully win Sectionals again. When I get older, hopefully play Division I college.
Hobbies other than tennis- I play a lot of tennis, but I also play volleyball.
What makes this team to special or unique? We really like playing with each other. We’ve known each other for so long and that helps us when we’re playing. Going down to Florida is going to be a really good experience.
What are you most looking forward to at Nationals? Just to go all together. To be able to play doubles and mixed doubles with my friends, it will be a good team experience.
Claire Langille, 14, Madison, CT
Favorite Tennis Player- John Isner and Naomi Osaka
Years playing tennis- 10 years
Years playing JTT- 5 years
Best part about playing JTT- I love playing tennis but what makes JTT so much better is that you’re with your friends and having so much fun. With all these tournaments, you start recognizing people and you make friends all over Connecticut and more.
What are your tennis goals? I want to play in college, Division III probably. I definitely want to be playing tennis for as long as I can because it’s a great sport.
Hobbies other than tennis- I ski every weekend in the winter and also like playing piano.
What makes this team to special or unique? We’ve been close for so long, and I think that gives us a big advantage. We know what we need to work on and how to help each other.
What are you most looking forward to at Nationals? I’ve always been busy because of skiing so this is my first time going. I’m very excited. A couple of the kids on this team have already been and they’ve said great things about it. I love playing with this team because they’re such great friends of mine, and being in Florida will be great too.
Breanna Colonese-DiBello, 14, Madison, CT
Favorite Tennis Player- Serena Williams
Years playing tennis-7 years
Years playing JTT- 1st year-
Best part about playing JTT- It’s really fun because I’ve got to meet a lot of new people, and the people here are so fun to be with and play with. I knew some of them before but I’ve got to get much closer with them.
What are your tennis goals? Just to be improve and be better than I was before.
Hobbies other than tennis- I play volleyball and like to draw.
What makes this team to special or unique? Everyone knows each other and knows how to work together and communicate with each other.
What are you most looking forward to at Nationals? This is my first time at a national tournament. It’s going to be a new experience so I’m going to get to learn a lot of things.
William de Chabert, 14, Madison, CT
Favorite Tennis Player- I’m going to have to be pretty basic and say Roger Federer. He’s so incredible. They’re all good, but I think he’s just better than everyone else.
Years playing tennis- 9 years
Years playing JTT- 3 years
Best part about playing JTT- I just love being with everybody here and my team and competing.
What are your tennis goals? I’m trying out for the high school team this spring, so I’m hoping to make that, and then just playing year round.
Hobbies other than tennis- I like to go skiing. And when we go on vacations, I tend to hang out with my brother a lot. We tend to just goof around.
What makes this team to special or unique? I think it’s got to be our team chemistry. We all get along really well with each other, we tend to have a lot of fun and it just works out like that.
What are you most looking forward to at Nationals? This will be my first time going to Nationals. I’m going to like missing school for a little bit. It’s going to be really cool down there. I’ve seen the website and it looks awesome. I can’t wait.
Elliott “Dragon” Booth, 12, East Lyme, CT
Favorite Tennis Player- Juan Martin del Potro- I love him. I love his personality, I think he’s a great guy. But also his power plays are ridiculous. I love his forehand. He can bang out a 110 mph forehand, which is really cool.
Years playing tennis- 8 years
Years playing JTT- 3 years
Best part about playing JTT- I love the team aspect of it. It’s not just you out there. It’s more of an alliance, and I think that’s really cool to play partners.
What are your tennis goals? This year I’d like to get to Sectionals in New England, and long term, I’d like to play college tennis at a high level.
Hobbies other than tennis- I play trombone but it’s really all tennis for me.
What makes this team to special or unique? Definitely our coaching. Rick is pretty relentless but in a good way. We work really hard and cooperate and are all really positive, and that makes for a good environment to practice and train. I think we keep that mentality of positivity and hard work.
What are you most looking forward to at Nationals? Florida! I haven’t been to Florida since I was seven, and to play on the National Campus would be awesome. I get to miss school and go to Florida to play tennis, so that’s pretty cool.
Sebastien Lowy- 14, Madison, CT
Andrew Sack, 15, Madison, CT
To learn more about Madison Racquet & Swim Club, click here.