By Matt Birch
Tucson, Ariz.--- The 6.0 Adult Mixed Doubles team from Lake Wales, Fla. is competing at this weekend’s USTA Adult League Mixed Doubles National Championships, but is without one of their key doubles pairs.
Team member Steve Jolley underwent a valve replacement heart surgery earlier in the week and is unable to compete with his teammates at the El Conquistador Resort this weekend.
Jolley had known for about eight years that he would eventually need this procedure, but his teammates were not aware of his situation when his heart began acting up in October during the teams state qualifying tournament in Daytona Beach.
Jolley was competing with his doubles partner Judi Whitaker when his heart rate began to climb, and it became increasingly more difficult for him to be able to finish the match.
"I remember him asking how much time he can take between serves," Whitaker said. "He also told me that he was going to have to slow down."
Whitaker explained that the trainers were eventually called to attend to Jolley, where they discovered his very high heart rate. Jolley and Whitaker finished the remainder of that tennis match, but were not victorious.
"It is a disappointment to not finish strong," Whitaker added. "We didn’t know that Steve had that problem. Fortunately, he has had successful surgery and we look forward to him being back on the court in March."
The team is captained by Paige Turner, who recalls what it was like watching the state tournament as Jolley’s heart began acting up.
"It was nerve-wracking," she said. "You could tell he was having issues. His heart rate was near 140 beats per minute, but he is not a quitter. He did not want to give up the match."
Whitaker competes as a 3.5 level player and is unable to compete this weekend because there are no other 2.5 level male players on the Lake Wales team to form a 6.0 level team with. Despite
this player ratings issue, she has flown to Tucson to support her teammates.
"I would rather be watching, than not be here at all," she said. "I would love to be playing, but this is a team effort. I want to do whatever I can to help, and I am glad to be here with the team."
The team is coached by Joe Hignight, who has been with the Lake Wales Country Club for over 25 years and has a team reaching a National Championship tournament for the first time. Hignight was not able to travel with the team to this tournament, but team member Michele Moses explained his importance to the team.
"He is very involved with all of the ladies on the club," she said. "He has coached all of us from the time we started playing tennis."
Turner also expressed what a great feat it is for her team to be competing at this level, and hopes that they have a successful weekend to honor Jolley as well as proudly representing Hignight’s program.