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2008 3.0/4.0 Sr. Section Championships

May 19, 2008 04:38 PM

Two weeks after the 2008 3.5/4.5 Sr. Section Championships, the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach welcomed 44 teams and 380 players, May 16-18, to the 2008 3.0/4.0 Sr. Section Championships. For many, the tournament marked the end of an eventful USTA league season; however, four top teams have advanced to the 2008 3.0/4.0 Sr. National Championships in Las Vegas, Nev. and Indian Wells, Calif. during October.

The 3.0 senior women’s team from Ocala, fearlessly nicknamed “Hot Shots”, took home first place with a 2-1 win over the 3.0 women’s team from St. Pete/Clearwater. St. Pete/Clearwater was undefeated in their flight with 5 team wins and zero losses heading into the championship.

In the finals, all three matches went into a third set tiebreak. At No.1, Jill Ovens and Barbara Luthin of Ocala def. Jane Dizona and Debra Harrington of St. Pete/Clearwater, 5-7; 6-3; 1-0. The No.2 doubles team of Kathleen Pappas and Valerie Glueckert secured victory for Ocala after defeating Diane Hennequant and Nan Li, 6-3; 6-7; 1-0. Teammates Lori Lee Heffner and June Williams gave St. Pete/Clearwater a win at No.3 doubles, defeating Mary Abrams and Celia Lombardi of Ocala 7-5; 3-6; 1-0.

Lead by first-time team captain of the senior women’s USTA league, Marilyn Bell, the team defied their own expectations at the Section Championships.

“Half of the team was brand new this year,” said Bell. “We tried not to put pressure on ourselves and just went out here to have a great time. All the officials and people working the desk were so wonderful and helpful. We had a great support system and cheering section which really helped boost our morale. I even liked our oppenents!” she joked.

Ocala almost missed the opportunity to play in the finals because two strong teams from Lee/Charlotte and Tallahassee finished close behind. All three teams tied with three wins and one loss in their flight; however, due to League Procedures, Ocala jumped into first place because they had the most individual matches won (8) as compared to Lee/Charlotte (7) and Tallahassee (7). 

In the women’s 4.0 division, St. Pete/Clearwater pulled of a 2-1 win against Lee/Charlotte in the finals. Like the women’s 3.0 finals, every match went into a third set tiebreak. Gisela Schlueter and Margaret Scholl of Lee/Charlotte def. Ria Graham and Linda Miller, 3-6; 6-4; 1-0 in No. 1 doubles. St. Pete/Clearwater took the next two matches at No. 2 and No. 3; Susan Hobbs and Ann Worthington def. Melanie Beasley and Joeleen Ralston 6-2; 3-6; 1-0 while Marion Murch and Henriette Skoczen def. Diann Cimring and Donna Ferres 4-6; 6-4; 1-0, respectively.

“I am so proud of the team,” said Anne Pulley, team captain.  “I felt that we had a tough bracket to get out of, and that was so because the number two team came out of our bracket.  I feel like our whole team just did a great job.”

Just last month the St. Pete/Clearwater women, who play out of the McMullen Tennis Center in Clearwater, won the USTA Florida Super Sr. Section Championships. The win this weekend means they will represent USTA Florida at both the USTA Sr. National Championships later this year and USTA Super Sr. Nationals in 2009.

“I believe that we can do very well [at Nationals],” Pulley said.  “I think we have a lot of people who are team players, who are great players with a lot of depth.”

Like other teams, the St. Pete/Clearwater women's team plans to switch to hard courts in July and keep practicing tiebreakers in preparation for Nationals.  

Other notable teams include Sarasota and North Palm Beach, who advanced to the semi-finals. Sarasota won the No. 1 doubles position against Lee/Charlotte, but eventually loss the No. 2 and No. 3 doubles positions in two close third set tiebreakers. North Palm Beach played well, but couldn’t overcome St. Pete/Clearwater in the semis. Forcing two third set tiebreakers in the No. 1 and No. 2 doubles positions, North Palm Beach had a chance to win, but unluckily lost 3-0 to St. Pete/Clearwater.

The men’s 3.0 finals finished first Sunday morning, naming Tallahassee the first Section Champions of the tournament. Tallahassee defeated teams from St. Pete/Clearwater, Naples and Lee/Charlotte. The only team loss was against Gainesville, 2-1. Second place finishers, Gainesville, lost one match as well during the tournament against Lee/Charlotte, forcing a two-way tie for first place in the men’s 3.0 round robin competition. Both Tallahassee and Gainesville had 3 wins and 1 loss; however, due to League Procedures, Tallahassee finished first because they had the most individual matches won (9) as compared to Gainesville (8).

“The competition was very even,” said Jay Tiedeberg, team captain. “The victory came down to a one match differential – that’s nothing!”

The Tallahassee team, who play out of Forest Meadows Tennis Complex, had never made it out of Tallahassee to a Section Championship until now. This was their first trip to Daytona Beach for the USTA senior men’s league and it is their first time advancing to a National Championship! With 11 players, part of Tallahassee’s advantage was having rested players every match.

“We have a big team so we are looking forward to going to nationals and playing as many matches we can play, and come out ahead,” said Tiedeberg, who played all eleven team members throughout the weekend. “I think it was a fabulous win and it helps a lot having so many teammates because we could play fresh.”

Captain of the men’s 3.0 team from Gainesville and seven-time US Open Wheelchair senior doubles champion, John Johnston, admitted some frustration in finishing second, but is grateful he was able to play after a year break due to a shoulder injury.

“It was nice to be back on the courts again after a year off of playing,” said Johnston. “It was fun and it was great to see a lot of the old guys I used to play against.”

The Gainesville team, who play out of DB Racquet Club, received unfortunate news the week before the Section Championships that the DB Racquet clubhouse had burnt down due to two electrical fires. The club that had been a staple in Gainesville for years, which is owned and operated by Don and Dave Blair (former FSU and UF tennis players, respectively), was gone.

“It definitely made it hard to practice before we came here,” said Johnston. The total estimated property damage was $230,000, according to Gainesville Fire Rescue and contents damaged in the fire had an estimated $100,000 value. Luckily, the tennis courts were not damaged, but with no running water or a bathroom facility, the men had a tough time preparing last week

In the men’s 4.0 finals, St. Pete/Clearwater snatched the championship, defeating Tallahassee, 3-0. Led by team captain, Todd Whitney, the team out of Shipwatch Racquet Club in Largo lost only one line of play the entire tournament and was undefeated in overall matches with a record of seven wins and 0 losses. After captaining the men’s senior league for three years, Whitney said this was the first time his team had qualified for Nationals.

“The competition was a great example of the great camaraderie that is in USTA League play,” said Whitney. “This team is very supportive of each other and everyone who came to play participated in at least one match.”

Special recognition goes out semi-finalist teams Pensacola and Gainesville/Lake City, who both lost 2-1. Pensacola handed St. Pete/Clearwater its only loss of the tournament, while Gainesville/Lake City forced two third set tiebreakers in the No. 2 and No. 3 doubles positions against Tallahassee.

Congratulations to everyone who advanced to the Section Championships and special thanks to USTA Florida officials, tournament director Gary Heatwole and USTA Florida volunteers, Susan Ruede, Dee Oeters and Margaret Huggins.






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