By Kevin Wittner
TUCSON, Ariz. – Sometimes friends need to travel 2,000 miles and wait 25 years to see each other, but for Maria Lapetina and Lyn Calkins, the 4.5 Women’s 2010 USTA National Championship was the right place to do it – even if they did not know it.
Lapetina, a stay-at-home mother from the Buffalo area, is making her first appearance at nationals for USTA Eastern section champions. Calkins, who lives just outside Boston, is a preschool teacher captaining USTA New England section champions.
However, some 25 years ago both women were highly rated youth players from Buffalo. As the New England captain, Calkins signed on to the USTA website to see the list of teams her squad would compete against this week at the Reffkin Tennis Center and was pleased to see a team from her hometown would be playing. That was when a familiar name popped up on her computer monitor. Her old playing rival and friend Maria Lapetina was captaining the Eastern team.
So when the two ran into each other on the first day of competition at this weekend’s tournament, Calkins says one thing popped into her mind.
"Maria looks exactly the same," Calkins said.
Surely, such a compliment after 25 years is why Lapetina so pleasantly recalls their childhood playing days.
"I always remember having nice, good matches with her," Lapetina said. "We were very close as far as ability goes. Her mom came to matches, and my mom came to matches – nice pleasant matches, good line calls."
After regularly playing against each other for four or five years, the two attended different high schools – Lapetina went to Mount Mercy Academy, while Calkins attended Nardin Academy.
From there, Lapetina played for two years at Canissius College. After a six year hiatus following her collegiate career, Lapetina has been playing in USTA leagues ever since.
Calkins, meanwhile, played collegiately at Buffalo and has bounced around the map by living in and playing with USTA teams in Vermont, New Jersey and now Massachusetts.
Calkins – formerly Lyn Campagna – recognizes the long odds, or perhaps fate, involved in bringing the two playing mates together.
"I wouldn’t have known Maria was here if she had not kept her maiden name," Calkins said. "If she hadn’t, I wouldn’t have noticed her (on the website).
" For one team to get to nationals out of any section is just so hard – there is so much work, it’s a long season," Calkins continued. "So many things can happen. The fact that it happened for both teams in the same year in the same level is amazing."
Approximately 25 years later after their last visit together, the two women immediately began catching up and made plans to see each other later on during tournament.
Perhaps Lapetina put it best when she said, "I guess it’s just one degree of separation; the whole Kevin Bacon thing."