Massachusetts League Team Gives New England Second National Title of 2021
SURPRISE, AZ - It takes a special group to win a National Championship. Beyond having on-court talent, a championship-worthy team requires a selfless, supportive and dedicated core in order to navigate even the most challenging circumstances.
Last weekend, Carolynn Crabtree’s nine “Sense-ace-tional Ladies,” the Adult 18 & Over 4.0 Women’s team out of Winchester Indoor Lawn Tennis Center in Winchester, MA, developed an instant connection strong enough to conquer the ultimate feat in USTA League Tennis.
“This season was sort of haphazard, and not everyone knew each other well before Nationals, but as soon as we crammed into our rental cars, the chemistry started to kick off,” Crabtree said. “We have a lot of jokers on the team, so the casual teasing turned into a natural bond. We made an immediate investment in each other, which is incredibly rare.”
From October 14-17, the ladies lived, ate, practiced, and spent nearly every hour of every day together near the Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex. It was in large part to the trust they gained in one another that helped them rack off six consecutive victories en route to claiming the first National Championship for Winchester Indoor Tennis.
“Choosing to live in a house together was key. It was truly like a family the whole time with multiple generations on the team and all of us playing our normal daily roles, from cooking and cleaning to problem solving,” Crabtree said. “While my name was listed as captain, the whole team really functioned as a captain. We never had a disagreement and we all decided on everything together. We felt so confident in every player, there was no need to change up the lineup or partnerships.”
Pam Jeppson handled No. 1 singles throughout the weekend for New England, while sisters Marybeth and Michelle Liang alternated at the No. 2 singles position. Combined, the three finished 12-0, including wins in the semifinals and finals.
“It was such a relief having those ladies at singles. They are so devoted to their craft, and we felt they were focused all weekend. They took the pressure off the rest of us, so we were able to swing loose during our matches,” Crabtree said.
The duo of Caitlin Blasco and Masha Papadopoulos also rose to the occasion, finishing 6-0 themselves from the No. 3 doubles spot. Crabtree and partner Alison Wilson locked down the first doubles position, finishing 5-1, with their lone defeat coming after the team had already clinched the match. Lauren Crowley and Sara Dolan handled No. 2 dubs for five of the team’s six matches. The pair ended with a 3-2 overall mark.
New England defeated teams from USTA Hawaii, Northern, Mid-Atlantic and Southwest on their way to a semifinal showdown with unbeaten Southern.
“I feel we were so effective because while we all wanted to win, no one was out there to get the W for themselves. We wanted so badly to do this for each other, and that willed us,” Crabtree said.
The semis against Southern and the finals against Middle States were much of the same for New England in terms of results, as they rolled 4-1 in both contests. However, with seven of the nine players out there for six matches in three days, fatigue began to work against them.
“We were all feeling it, and it started to set in for different people at different times. But again, we approached it together with the same mentality, and that was, as soon as we started to feel it, let’s crank it up and win points so we could get it done faster,” Crabtree said.
And that’s exactly what they did. They quickly wrapped up their finals match, with four of the five positions rolling in straight sets.
“It was utter elation when we won. It was such a joy to win but really the sentiment was, we were so excited we did it together with this group. That was an even greater joy,” Crabtree said.
Crabtree, Wilson and Jeppson will be heading back to Surprise from October 29-31 to compete at the Mixed 18 & Over 8.0 National Championship. This will be Crabtree’s third time competing at the event, and she hopes “this is the year.”
New England sent seven additional teams to League Nationals last weekend in Arizona, Oklahoma and Florida. They were:
Women’s 40 & Over 4.5 from Longfellow Tennis Club in Natick, MA. The team was captained by Maureen Sumner and finished 7th overall.
Men’s 55 & Over 7.0 from Spark Fitness & Tennis in Andover, MA. The team was captained by Al Uluatam and finished 10th overall.
Men’s 40 & Over 3.5 BSC Wellesley in Wellesley, MA. The team was captained by Larry Fischer and David Sonner and finished 11th overall.
Men’s 18 & Over 4.0 from Kings Highway Tennis Club in Darien, CT. The team was captained by Christopher Johnson and Henric Babtist and finished 11th overall.
Men’s 40 & Over 4.5 from the Tennis Club of Trumbull in Trumbull, CT. The team was captained by Dan Flack and Steven Lubchansky and finished 14th overall.
Women’s 40 & Over 3.5 from Lakeville Athletic Club in Lakeville, MA. The team was captained by Kristin Levine and Kara Lenz and finished 14th overall.
Women’s 55 & Over 7.0 from Lakeville Athletic Club in Lakeville, MA. The team was captained by Zoe Kelliher and finished 14th overall.
To view photos from weekend 3 of Nationals, click here.
For complete Nationals results click here.