Each year, the USTA Jr. Team Tennis National Championships features many of the brightest and enthusiastic junior players in the nation. From all 17 USTA sections, the players, their coaches and their parents travel thousands of miles to converge upon Surprise, Arizona - the travel, along with the tennis action, unites the teams and creates lasting memories.
Courtesy of USTA.com, we highlight the championship experiences of the members of "Team Danger," the USTA Mid-Atlantic 18U Intermediate representatives. The Maryland-based squad has volunteered to share their thoughts about the journey to Surprise as teammates and what lies ahead as they try to win a national championship:
Oct. 28 - All Together Now
Team Danger had a busy day today soaking up the warm Arizona weather. Our last team member, Robbie, came today as he attempted to participate in his conference cross country race last evening. But it got cancelled due to several tornado warnings in good ol' Southern Maryland. The rest of our team - Billy, Connor, Hope, Lydia, Dani, and Spencer - arrived yesterday, along with Coach Taggert and Coach Sabedra.
Now complete again, Team Danger had their pre-match practice at the awesome Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex, followed by a pre-match dinner as one big happy family at Carrabba's! The players had one last evening to blowoff some steam as they prepared for the biggest matches of their young lives by relaxing in the hot tub at the Marriott Hotel.
As the kids enjoyed the spas and jets, the parents and coaches spent the evening remembering all of the positive moments on our run to the Championships, and - just as importantly - all of the people who helped us out. The players and coaches have waited 75 days for tomorrow and I believe we are ready to play some tennis finally!
Oct. 29 - Tough Breaks
Arriving at the Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex this morning, Team Danger was ready and raring to go for our 10:30 a.m. start time. Alas, our group eventually came up short in our first set of round-robin matches, losing 40 games to 15 against a formidable USTA Midwest Intermediate team from Wisconsin.
Despite a strong effort, our players lost all five individual matches. Hope Ironmonger led the way with 9 points (5 in singles and 4 in mixed doubles) for the cause, but we knew even at that early point that we had an even tougher road ahead to advance to the placement backet. The feeling amongst our group was at first disappointment, but we quickly wanted to move past forward and focused on our 1:30 p.m. tilt with USTA New England. In between, we made sure that out here in the hot weather and cloudless skies, replenishing our nutirients was top priority with sufficient hydration all through our time at the complex.
As the morning transitioned into the afternoon, the results, unfortunately, did not change - Team Danger was upended once again, this time by a score of 37 games to 17. Hope Ironmonger continues to be the catalyst of the team, garnering 10 points in her play in this round. A tough day all around, but we're proud of how we competed - and tomorrow is a whole new day.
As for the night time, the kids had a blast at the Player Party at the Surprise Aquatic Center. Between the food, the candy station, the dancing and swimming, it was a great experience for the kids and Coach Taggert and Coach Sabedra. Some of our bunch got some great henna tattoos, and the DJ kept us entertained for hous.
We face off against USTA Northern at 9:00 a.m., and you can bet we'll be set to play at our best.
Oct. 30 - Keeping Our Chin Up
Maybe it was a sign of team unity - or maybe it was an act of superstition - but our boys ended up getting group haircuts for today's matches. After a tough first day, a change of look certainly couldn't hurt.
We took to the courts today determined to right our course and get back into the championship hunt. In the first matchup of the day, however, Team Danger came up short against USTA Northern 39 games to 11. Not discouraged, we were still quite optimistic going into our last flighted match against the USTA Intermountain.
That we lost our final pool match to Intermountain by a score of 33 games to 19 meant that a national championship was officially out of play, yet it seems that we are learning something about ourselves.
The kids are taking very well and have been motivated to become better for next year, taking the losses in stride. We're proud of how united they've become throughout our journey to get to Surprise and beyond - the team support from the sidelines during matches, the haircuts, that we eat lunch everyday together at Chiptole (another newfound tradition), going to the movies as a group... regardless of the scores, the players have each other and still want to hang out with one another.
Life moves on - and to be cliche, tomorrow is another day. Overall, it has been a once in a lifetime experience, complete with unexpected outcomes.
We will see you tomorrow!
Oct. 31 - Closure
Overall, the kids a great time despite finishing in last place. The last match versus Texas, where we lost another tough one 34 games to 22, was the closest outcome of the week, so the feeling is that we did progress as the National Championships went on.
Even with the team simply playing for playing for pride, our parents and coaching staff were a bit tense - but that's a good thing. Everyone involved, from kids to parents to coaches, treated every point like it was more important than the last and kept their head in the game. After it was over, we thanked Alannah Broderick, our Mid-Atlantic Sectional Director, who was there to cheer us on.
On Halloween Sunday, we all began reflecting about the trip and about which aspects of the trip were the most fun. Our players played basketball at the hotel with teams such as Team New Hampshire, had a pretty rousing movie night on Saturday - and, of course, the experience of playing tennis at the wonderful facilities in Surprise was something we will take with us for years to come.
During lunch at Cracker Barrell, the players were discussing possibly coming a week earlier next year to get used to the time change and weather - we will do our best to be back for redemption in 2011. Team Danger and the coaching staff and parents are already preparing for next year, you can be sure of that.
One last thank you for all who have supported these kids from the first stages back home in Maryland, all the way to the past weekend and ultimately beyond. We couldn't have come this far without you!