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Naples 65 & Over USTA Tennis Team Rallies Around Cancer-stricken Teammate

April 30, 2014 08:53 AM
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Sharon Williams (left) and her Village Walk of Naples team
They were not even supposed to be there after their experienced captain stepped down at the beginning of the season.

The power of USTA League tennis and friendships was on display in April at the USTA Florida 65 & Over League Sectional Championships, where a team from Naples was rooted on by their former captain who has forced to step down due to an ongoing battle with cancer.

"Sharon Williams had captained this particular team for years, but last year prior to registration, Diane Donahue asked if she could captain the team and I asked why," said USTA Florida Local League Coordinator for Collier County Linda Kleitch. "Sharon is having difficulties with cancer and had a mastectomy, and is now dealing with a need to have a colonoscopy. She had the necessary surgery and is now walking around with a bag attached to her body and can no longer play."

With their rookie captain Donahue at the helm, the team won the league Fall and Winter Sessions, then surprisingly won the local playoffs and advanced to the USTA Florida 65 & Over League Sectional Championships, one step away from advancing to the national championships.

"They did not win the Sectionals, but, in my book, they won for their spirit and the reason behind forming a team," Kleitch said. "Although her prognosis is uncertain at this time, we in Collier County are praying for each day. This is an extraordinary example of why we play tennis."

Donahue said captaining the team was easy due to all the work Williams, an experienced captain in the 65s age group, put into the team, and the training she was provided.

"Making sure Sharon was a part of the team was sometimes the hardest part since she was battling so many oppositions," Donahue said of Williams, who attended the Sectionals in Daytona Beach to root her team on. "But true to form, her determination and our love for the game of tennis has made us all stronger people. USTA tennis helped make that happen."

For Donahue and her Village Walk of Naples teammates, the friendships and team effort extend beyond the court.

"We will all continue to fight our battles while we enjoy our friendships and play some tennis along the way," she said. "Having Sharon in those stands cheering us on was something we will all remember. Our bond of friendship is stronger due to USTA tennis. Thanks USTA tennis for giving us a way to make that happen!"

Williams says she will continue to fight cancer with a combination of her doctors and her lifelong love for tennis, both on and off the court.

"I started playing USTA tennis in the '80s in the Michigan and Indiana area," she says. "I just loved the competitive organized tennis. In the '90s we discovered Naples and, after losing my husband of 40 years to cancer in 2000, I decided I wanted to be in Naples permanently and play USTA tennis once again. In June 2013 I was diagnosed with not only breast cancer but colon/rectal  cancer as well. I have had my two surgeries and will be finishing my last chemo hopefully by June [2014] and be back on the courts. I love playing USTA tennis because of the camaraderie, competitiveness and the organization of the USTA. We hope to be returning [to Florida League Sectionals] next year."

 
 

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