©Colette Lewis 2015--
The rain that plagued the USTA Spring Team championships continued to wreck havoc on Thursday, but champions were crowned on the final day, with the Angels and the Patriots taking titles, both based on the number of sets won.
Play didn't get underway until after 1 p.m., with overnight rain and occasional drizzle keeping the 60 courts at the Mobile Tennis Center in various phases of damp. Singles would decide the gold, silver and bronze balls, with all matches starting at 2-2 in each set. With no forecast suggesting any extended window for play, there was no telling how important each match or even each game might be when it was announced that matches, sets and games would decide the winners if play was abandoned due to weather conditions.
The No. 1 players took the courts first for the Angels and the Firecrackers, who were playing for the girls titles. Jessie Aney posted the Angels first point, beating good friend Savannah Slaysman 6-3, 6-3 in the 18s. Slaysman and Aney were on the championship team last year, but Aney said she was able to overcome that emotional hurdle.
The Firecrackers answered back on the 16s court, with Isabella Lorenzini defeating Natasha Subhash 6-2, 7-6(2). They then edged ahead with Saige Roshkoff defeating Jacque Dunyon 6-2, 2-6, 10-5 on the 12s court. The final No. 1 match went to the Angels, with Victoria Hu winning the 14s match over Shelly Yaloz 6-4, 6-3, making it 2-2. The Angels Madeline Meredith led Taylor Russo at No. 2 18s 6-4, 2-3; in the No. 2 16s, Maria Ross was up 5-4 on the Firecrackers Sarianna Kuuttila; in the No. 2 14s, the Angels Anna Alons led Nina Gulbransen 5-4, and in the No. 2 12s, the Firecrackers Sonia Maheshwari led Elaine Chervinsky 6-4, 4-4 when play was halted by rain for the final time.
In the boys final, the Patriots and the Eagles had accommodated a player with an early flight and the No. 2 18s played first, with the Patriots Jack Turchetta defeating Kamran Khan 6-4, 6-3 to give his team a 2-0 lead, after Chase Wood had beaten Ignacio Garcia of the Eagles 6-2, 6-2 on the No. 1 16s court for their first point.
The Eagles came back to tie it however, with Anuj Watane beating William Grant 6-3, 7-5 at No. 1 14s, and Eli Gordon defeating Maxwell McKennon 4-6, 6-3, 10-6 at No. 1 12s. In the No. 1 18s match, the Eagles Jacob Hansen led Parker Wynn 3-0; in the No. 2 16s match the Patriots Axel Nefve led Zummy Bauer 7-5; in the No. 2 14s match, Theodore McDonald led the Eagles Griffin Babineaux 6-4, 3-3, and in the No. 2 12s match, the Patriots Thomas Navarro and the Eagles Phillip Dell were tied at 4-4.
That ended the only extended rain-free stretch, with sprinkles causing delays, while play resumed on some courts and not others depending on their drying rate. In the other matches in the compass draws, players were leaving for the airport and many matches were abandoned, but those playing in the medal round had reason to wait out the drizzle. Play resumed again and a few games were played in the remaining matches on court, but another rain delay proved too much, and at 4:30 the decision was made to cancel play.
The calculations were then made to determine the gold, silver and bronze medalists, and the bronze balls were decided without much math needed. The Diamondbacks took the girls bronze match by virtue of leading the completed match count 2-0 over the Devils, and the Panthers won the boys bronze balls by taking the completed match tiebreaker 3-2.
The Angels were announced as the girls champions after they had won six completed sets to the Firecrackers four, and the Patriots took that same tiebreaker seven sets to three.
For Angels coach William Brown, who coached the bronze ball boys team in last year's championship, the rain and its repercussions weren't the story.
"We've had our frustrations this year with the rain this year, but it's a great event. The girls played clean, with great conduct, and they're champions," said Brown, a teaching pro at the Frontenac Racquet Club in St. Louis, Missouri. "They're great examples and this is how junior tennis should be."
Brown said his 18s players set the tone for the team.
"We didn't have any drama, and I attribute that to the leadership of my 18-year-olds," Brown said. Jessie [Aney]--the girl plays so many out balls, competes so hard, great conduct, great attitude.
It's a fantastic format and I really like the different age groups together. As the week progresses you work through that awkwardness of the first couple of days, and as things progress, you develop some really unique relationships and I think that's a pretty special part of this event from the coach's perspective."
Jeff Bearup, the Patriots coach, was new to the event this year, but he too appreciated the camaraderie that developed throughout the week.
"It's always a trying situation when you have eight strangers, trying to create chemistry, but they are all very competitive players and that's a common denominator," said Bearup, a founder of the New England Academy of Tennis in Boston. "That really kind of bonded them as a team, and everybody contributed. It was just a huge performance all week long."
Bearup saw that effort throughout the week culminate in a title, which he dubbed "huge."
"It wasn't just one match. When it came down to this, the will they demonstrated this week got them the gold balls."
The sportsmanship awards were announced, with Jessie Aney and Oliver Crawford this year's recipients.
Individual scores will be posted on the TennisLink site by Friday.
Girls Gold balls:
18s: Jessie Aney, Rochester MN
18s: Madeline Meredith, Vestavia, AL
16s: Natasha Subhash, Fairfax, VA
16s: Maria Ross, Lakewood Ranch, FL
14s: Victoria Hu, Northborough, MA
14s: Anna Alons, Salix, IA
12s: Jacque Dunyon, South Ogden, UT
12s: Elaine Chervinsky, Reisterstown, MD
Girls Silver balls:
18s: Savannah Slaysman, Phoenix, AZ
18s: Taylor Russo, Deerfield Beach, FL
16s: Isabella Lorenzini, Clarendon Hills, IL
16s: Sarianna Kuuttila, Albuquerque, NM
14s: Shelly Yaloz, Little Neck, NY
14s: Nina Gulbransen, Boca Raton, FL
12s: Saige Roshkoff, Haverford, PA
12s: Sonia Maheshwari, Morrisville, NC
Boys Gold balls:
18s: Parker Wynn, Keller TX
18s: Jack Turchetta, Pound Ridge, NY
16s: Chase Wood, Heath TX
16s: Axel Nefve, Hinsdale, IL
14s: William Grant, Santa Barbara, CA
14s: Theodore McDonald, Bellvue, WA
12s: Maxwell McKennon, Newport Beach, CA
12s: Thomas Navarro, Williamsville, NY
Boys Silver balls:
18s: Jacob Hansen, Houston, TX
18s: Kamran Khan, Dallas, TX
16s: Ignacio Garcia, San Juan, PR
16s: Zummy Bauer, Suwanee, GA
14s: Anuj Watane, Orlando, FL
14s: Griffin Babineaux, Lafayette, LA
12s: Eli Gordon, Highland Park, IL
12s: Phillip Dell, Bradenton, FL