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2008 USTA Florida Combo Adult 5.5 & 8.5 and Senior Section Championships

January 22, 2009 03:53 PM
By: Tori Townsend

The 2008 USTA Florida Combo Adult 5.5 & 8.5 and Senior Section Championships capped off the end of the 2008 USTA League Tennis season for 49 teams and 428 players at the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach, Jan. 16-18. With new improvements added to this year’s event, including recently resurfaced and lined courts complimentary of the City of Daytona Beach, a professional picture service for players with an official USTA Florida backdrop and a new Cyber Center, the facility was in great shape for championship play. The level of play was exceptional and very close throughout the weekend which was evident when 14 teams had the same team win/loss record in their particular flights.

Winners & Finalists

“The weather was a bit chilly but the tennis was terrific,” said Carl Weathington, Tournament Director. “All divisions had tremendous competition coming down to counting the percentage of games won to determine some winners. The players, staff, officials and spectators were just great with a mix of novice players and championship experienced players providing some upsets. Some new friends were made and many compliments to the USTA for holding such a fun event.”

In the 6.5 senior women’s division, South Miami-Dade, Gainesville/Lake City and Lake County tied with a 2 – 1 win/loss record in Flight I; however, due to league regulations, South Miami-Dade advanced to the finals because they has the most individual wins (6). In Flight II, Polk County tied with Lee/Charlotte with 2 wins and 1 loss as well; however, Polk County had more individual wins (6) and so faced the Crandon Start Seniors in the finals.

The Polk County team, led by 20-year veteran captain, Jeanette Dickson, defeated Polk County, captained by Terry Jonas, 3-0 in the championship. Polk County won the No. 1 and No. 2 courts in straight sets and took the final court in a third set tiebreak. With a great team this year, including three girls who made it to Nationals in 2008, Dickson was excited to get the win.

“We have worked hard and we practice quite a bit in Lakeland,” said Dickson, whose team plays at the Beerman Family Tennis Center. “We are all real good friends, we all have a nice time, we all root each other on and it is just a wonderful team.”

The 7.5 senior women’s team from St. Pete/Clearwater, captained by Nancy Morgan, claimed the title in the round robin competition, defeating teams from Polk County and Tallahassee. With only six players, the women, who play out of McMullen Tennis Complex, swept the competition with a perfect 4-0 record. Two players, Melody Raetz and Micky Gelestor, won all four matches as a doubles pair.

“We really hadn’t played much together,” said Morgan. “It was disappointing that two of our players were determined ineligible [before the tournament], so we knew we couldn’t get hurt, couldn’t party or anything like that because aches or pains, we had to play.”

The team drew for court positions and once they had their partners set, they decided to leave it that way the entire weekend.

“We let things fall where they may and it just meshed,” Morgan said. “The team did great and we were all supportive of one another.”

Norm Ott, Carl Weathington and Larry Jaben

St. Pete/Clearwater took home a second championship title in the 6.5 senior men’s division. Led by team captain Pat Bitonti, they defeated teams from Gainesville/Lake City and Tallahassee with an overall record of 4-0. The round robin competition was very close as every match was decided by a score of 2-1.

“Last year, we were in the final match and we lost 2-1 in a 10 point tiebreak, 10-8. We lost by two points,” said Bitonti, who had three members fly in from Rochester, Canada just to play, including himself. “So this year, when we came back, we did not want to lose again. We had a much more balanced team.”

The seasoned St. Pete/Clearwater team was thrilled to bring home a state championship amidst the close local and section competition in 2008.

“It was very close in local league and once we made it to the state championships, everyone was very excited,” he said. “Every time we come to the state, it is well organized and the people here do a great job. We have been to Nationals twice, and all our players always say that the state championship is the best thing to come to!”

USTA Florida crowned a third team from St. Pete/Clearwater in the 7.5 senior men’s division. The division was very close as St. Pete/Clearwater, captained by Sten Tallarida, tied with Gainesville/Lake City, captained by John Hill, in the round robin competition with 2 team wins and 1 team loss, 5 individual wins and 4 individual losses. The final tiebreak went to St. Pete/Clearwater because they lost just one set less (9) than Gainesville (10). Talk about a photo finish!

In the 5.5 adult women’s round robin competition, Tallahassee, captained by Denean Sykes, went 5 and 0 and defeated teams from Polk County, North Palm Beach, South Miami, Gainesville/Lake City and Ocala to win the division. Polk County, captained by Sara Margeson, squeezed ahead of North Palm Beach for second place as both teams finished with 3 wins and 2 losses; however, Polk County finished second because they had more individual wins (10) than North Palm Beach (8).

“This was the team’s first Combo win and it was most of our first time coming down here,” Sykes said. “Only two players had been before so it was a lot of fun.”

The team, who are all good friends off the court, also celebrated a birthday while they were in Daytona.

“We come to have a good time as well as play tennis,” Sykes added. “All three of our 2.5 players played all 5 matches and played awesome, and being their first experience with tennis, it was great.”

Action shots

It was another close call in the 5.5 adult men’s division as both Pensacola, captained by Ray Cocuy, and Gainesville/Lake City, captained by Gabriel Quant, tied for first with 3 wins and 1 loss each. Pensacola nabbed the title because they had just one more individual win (8) than Gainesville/Lake City (7).

The newly crowned champions had to earn that one extra win on Saturday night when they played Tallahassee – a potential spoiler for the team. It was the final match of the 5.5 adult men’s division and Pensacola needed all three courts to claim the title. After taking the No. 2 and No. 3 doubles lines in just two sets, all the marbles came down to the No. 1 doubles team of Wade Jeffrey Wilson and Tim Floyd from Pensacola and Jim Feiertag and Jim Neece from Tallahassee. Pensacola won the match in an exciting third set tiebreak and left Daytona as league champions.

In the 8.5 division, the highest level of play at the tournament, a women’s team from Jacksonville and men’s team from Gainesville/Lake City won top honors. Jacksonville, captained by Rose Caven, finished second in their flight against an undefeated team from South Miami-Dade (4-0), captained by Rose Haney. However; the Jacksonville team, who play out of San Jose Country Club, received a wildcard into the semifinals because they had the best win/loss record out of all the second place teams in the other two flights.

In semifinal A, a team from Gainesville/Lake City, captained by Bobbie O'Brien Mehan, overpowered South Miami-Dade, 2-1, to advance to the finals. Jacksonville defeated a team from North Palm Beach, captained by Amy Uzdilla, 3-0, in semifinal B to advance to the championship round.

In the finals, Jacksonville defeated Gainesville/Lake City, 2-1.

Gilles Maillart, captain of the 8.5 men’s team from Gainesville/Lake City, knew the competition would be tough, but had confidence in his team to bring home a state championship.

“We have a great group of guys and they all stepped up,” Maillart said. “We have played together all year long and those guys are so good that I simply put the line up in, and they just go out and play.”

In the finals, Gainesville/Lake City defeated Tallahassee, captained by Larry Johnson, 3-0 and in straight sets on all three courts. Their toughest match, Maillart said, was not during the finals, but on the first day of competition.

“The first day, second match against a team from Clearwater, was the toughest match in our flight,” he said. “The match came down to the No. 2 team going to a third set tiebreaker, and that could have changed everything. So that was fun and we pulled it out - after that, we were in good shape.”

USTA Florida thanks all teams for participating in the fifth annual Combo Championships. Special thanks to USTA Florida volunteers Ruth Ann and Norm Ott, Larry Jaben and tournament director Carl Weathington. Your participation in USTA League Tennis helps support the game we all love.

“It was a good finale for 2008,” said Dona Garcia, USTA Florida League Assistant. The weather was chilly, but players worked through it and delivered an exciting and successful league championship. This is the fastest growing league and congrats to all the winners, as well as to all who participated!”

Adult ResultsWinner & Finalist Photos

Adult Women – 5.5

  • Champions: Tallahassee
  • Finalists: Polk County

Adult Women – 8.5

  • Champions: Jacksonville
  • Finalists: Gainesville/Lake City

Adult Men – 5.5

  • Champions: Pensacola
  • Finalists: Gainesville/Lake City

Adult Men – 8.5

  • Champions: Gainesville/Lake City
  • Finalists: Tallahassee

Senior Results | Winner & Finalist Photos

Senior Women – 6.5

  • Champions: Polk County
  • Finalists: South Miami-Dade

Senior Women – 7.5

  • Champions: St. Pete/Clearwater
  • Finalists: Polk County

Senior Men – 6.5

  • Champions: St. Pete/Clearwater
  • Finalists: Gainesville/Lake City

Senior Men – 7.5

  • Champions: St. Pete/Clearwater
  • Finalists: Gainesville/Lake City






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