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Monday, March 5, 2018

Diamondbacks and Stingrays Advance to Girls USTA National Spring Team Championship Match, Completion of Boys Semifinals Scheduled for Tuesday; Kratzer Defeats Top Seed in First Round of BNP Paribas Qualifying

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Mobile, AL--

The coaches of the Diamondbacks and the Stingrays, who advanced to the final of the girls USTA National Spring Team Championships with victories today, are making their debuts at the tournament after being encouraged by those who had experience at the 16-team, college-format event in its previous four years.

Diamondbacks coach Daniel Caballero Valcarcel of Puerto Rico was prompted to apply by parents who had been to the tournament.

"A few players from Puerto Rico always come over here and I was talking to one of the parents and they said, 'hey, you should apply'," said Caballero, who serves as a USTA Net Generation ambassador from the Caribbean Section. "There's never been a coach from Puerto Rico here, and I was happy to receive a notice that I was selected."

Caballero's team has had an impressive run in the first two days, winning their three matches by scores of 6-1, 5-2, and in today's semifinal against the Angels 5-2.

"I think I'm very lucky about the team that I have," Caballero said. "They're very good girls, very well trained, so I'm enjoying the moment.

Caballero said the unorthodox schedule that has been required to get ahead of the anticipated rain Tuesday hasn't been a problem for his team.

"We've been lucky that we've practicing and warming up for the match at the same time every day," Caballero said. "We've done the meetings at the same time, we pray before playing, which is something the girls really love, and we have great cheering. I also keep them busy. They have their own assignments: you are going to take of the cheering, you are going to take care of where we're dining tonight, so they're always engaged in the group thing. I'm happy they became friends right away."

Caballero was one of several coaches who were responsible for two teams on the first day, with the coach of the Bears, a boys team, unable to get out of the Northeast due to the big storm there.

"I was assisting them the first day, but the coach came on the second day," Caballero said. "I still go and watch some of their matches, because it was a good group of kids and I clicked with them really well."

Caballero said the small club where he works in Puerto Rico is down to two courts after last fall's Hurricane Maria, but he is confident the island will rebound.

"It's getting better, but it's going to take a long time to recover," Caballero said. "The good thing about Puerto Ricans is that they're very resilient. It's going to take more than a year, maybe more than two years to get back to the way we're used to, but we're still fighting. I have four courts at my club and two are closed. There are only three people who work on courts. There are clubs that have two, three courts available out of four or five, so it's getting better."

In Tuesday's semifinal match, the Diamondbacks won the doubles point with 18s Lana Mavor and Callie Creath clinching it over Sedona Gallagher and Caroline Scheufler 6-5(5).  The Diamondbacks took a 3-0 lead with wins at No. 2 18s and No. 1 14s. The Angels got on the board with a win at No. 2 14s, but Kelsey Mize quickly followed with a win at No. 1 16s to put the match out of reach for the Angels.

The Stingrays followed a similar path to the final, taking the doubles point 2 matches to 1 over the Ninjas and jumping out to a 3-0 lead with singles wins by Makayla Mills at No. 1 16s and Catherine Broerman at No. 2 16s.  The Ninjas made it 3-1 with Ava Krug's victory at No. 2 14s, but the Stingrays earned their place in the final when Didi Canizares retired down 7-5, 5-4 to the Stingrays Savanna Kollock at No. 1 14s.

Stingrays coach Mariel Tinnirello was persuaded to apply for a coaching position by several junior players she coaches at the Newcombe Tennis Ranch in Texas.

"I had some players play it last year and they told me how awesome it was," Tinnirello said. "They said, 'you should go as a coach', so I gave it a try this year."

Tinnirello said her team is now hearing that they are an awesome team, but Tinnirello didn't have any premonition that they would end up in the final.

"They were all pretty solid, but I figured everyone at this tournament would be good," Tinnirello said. "I didn't think we had a better team, but they were all really solid from the start."

Although their last two matches have been 5-2 victories, Tinnirello's team had a close call in the opening round against the Bengals, with Jessi Muljat saving a match point in a 7-5, 2-6, 7-5 win at No. 2 18s in the last match on.

"That was huge," Tinnirello said. "The girls are super excited to be in the final. It's a great tournament and we're pumped."

Depending on the weather, which is expected to improve later in the day on Tuesday, the girls final could be played in the late afternoon or evening, after the boys complete their semifinal matches. Due to the more precise forecast for Tuesday, it was decided that the boys would only play the doubles in their third round.  They had played their second round singles matches in the morning, with the Broncos beating the Bears 7-0, the Titans defeating the Saints 6-1, the Seahawks downing the Lions 6-1 and, in the only match to reach a last match on situation, the Eagles beat the Jaguars 4-3.  The Eagles' Riley Odell beat Sam Feldman at No. 2 16s to send his team into the semifinals.

In the semifinals, the Titans collected the doubles point by taking 2 matches to the Broncos' 1, with the Titans 18s, Patrick Fletchall and Andrew Dale, saving a match point at 6-7 in the tiebreaker to beat the Broncos' Nevin Arimilli and Cole Groetsch 6-5(7).

The Seahawks took the doubles point from the Eagles, with the 16s and 18s winning the first two matches that were decided, both by 6-4 scores.

The boys will complete their semifinal matches on Tuesday, with the final set to be played on Wednesday.  See the tournament website for updates on the weather Tuesday.

Qualifying is underway at the BNP Paribas Open, with women taking the courts at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden today.  Seven American women have advanced, including wild card Ashley Kratzer, the 2017 USTA National 18s champion. Kratzer, 19, got the best ranking win of her career today, beating WTA No. 62 and top qualifying seed Kateryna Kozlova of Ukraine 6-4, 6-1.  She received her wild card into the qualifying by winning the annual pre-qualifying tournament.  Other US women to advance today are Sachia Vickery[15], Madison Brengle[5], Kristie Ahn[22], Bernarda Pera[16], Taylor Townsend[11] and Sonya Kenin[17].  Two wins are necessary to qualify into the 96-player main draw, with 12 women making it through.  The women's main draw was released today, with 16 US women receiving entry via wild card or by ranking.

The men's qualifying begins tomorrow, although the draw has not yet been released. It should be up in a few hours and available at the ATP website.