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More than one way to win a USTA Nationals banner

Chamisal_Jellyfish_with_banner_-_lo
November 8, 2016 11:37 AM

By Susan Ajeska, special to USTA.com

During the last weekend in October, in Rancho Mirage, Calif., a team from Chamisal Tennis Club represented Northern California at the USTA League Adult 18 & Over Women’s 4.5 National Championships.

It’s worth noting that the Chamisal team’s average age is about 50, and there are a few grandmothers, and even a Stage 3 cancer survivor on the roster. Their tennis backgrounds are also diverse, with some having played since childhood (several locally as well as one with training at the Bollettieri Academy), some having played in college and others having just picked up the game for the first time in their late 30s or even 40s.

Although everyone played very competitive matches, by Saturday afternoon, the Chamisal team knew they were out of contention for the final rounds on Sunday.

There was still the Player Party on Saturday evening to enjoy, however. Since the tournament was close to Halloween, the USTA encouraged the players to wear costumes and announced that there would be an award for most creative costumes. That’s all it took! To represent Northern California and specifically the Monterey Bay area, the Chamisal players had decided to be jellyfish at the Player Party.

One of the team members, Jennifer Watson, developed an incredibly creative jellyfish prototype costume using a clear plastic umbrella, decorative ribbon and bubble wrap. The whole team got together one weekend before the tournament and customized their umbrellas with their favorite colors and styles, and some added blinking lights and special effects.

The Chamisal women knew they had done a pretty good job on the costumes, but something completely unexpected happened that evening once they all met outside by the hotel pool. The lighted jellyfish came to life in the darkness of the evening in a way they could not have predicted.

Jaclyn Marcus Togneri, the team’s youngest player at age 35, led the team into the hotel to the event dining room, and soon all of the jellyfish swirled and swayed as one and danced its way through the other players that were socializing and waiting for the event to begin. It was apparent from the other players’ faces that Chamisal had done something really special, with comments such as “it’s over, they are going to win” and “nobody will top this” coming from the crowd.

Later, after dinner, a DJ began playing music – and the jellyfish came alive again, moving in a graceful line out to the dance floor. Soon, the dance floor was covered with sparkling jellyfish, and the DJ announced “the jellyfish have won.”

USTA officials presented the team with a 2016 USTA Nationals banner for most creative costume and commented on its terrific team spirit. The team captain, Bonnie Tetrick, then proudly presented the banner to Luis Reis, the general manager of Chamisal Tennis and Fitness Club, in appreciation for the club’s support and enthusiasm.

That evening, the jellyfish always seemed to move together, continuing to swirl and sway around the room, making people happy and having fun. But that pretty much sums up the spirit of the team all season and goes a long way toward explaining how the team members managed to get to Nationals in the first place, and in the most competitive league – the Adult 18 & Over age division.

Longtime doubles partners and best friends Linda Scholink and Stacey Callahan have been playing tournaments and leagues together for more than 20 years. Both said this was one of the best tennis experiences they have ever had, not only because of the high quality tennis but because of the great camaraderie of the team.

Stephanie Scattini added, “I realized at Nationals that our team really stood out, not only because we had fantastic costumes, but because we were a real team! We're all friends, we're a close-knit group. I'm proud of that. It showed, on the tennis court and certainly at the party.”

Captain Bonnie Tetrick said “being from a less populous local area and drawing primarily from one tennis club would normally limit a team’s potential to progress to the National Championships, but one way or another, this team figured out how to make it happen.”

And now, they will never forget the jellyfish!

 

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