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New England squads weathering the elements at 6.0/8.0 Nationals

October 22, 2016 12:42 PM

By Cory Kamerschak, special to USTA.com

SURPRISE, ARIZ – The USTA League National Championships bring together a diverse group of people from all across the map. Sometimes, however, one area can produce multiple Nationals contenders.

Such was the case this year with the women’s teams representing the New England section. One of the teams is 6.0 and the other is 8.0, but they are both competing in the Adult 55 and Over National Championships at the Surprise T&R Complex here in Arizona.

Coming from the New England section, both teams knew that dealing with the Arizona weather might prove to be difficult. However, after the first day of play both teams are 2-0 in their respective divisions.

The women’s New England team competing at the 6.0 level has been together since 2008 and is based out of Simsbury, Conn. The women call themselves “Senior Moment-um” and are enjoying their second time competing at Nationals. When asked what the biggest challenge has been so far, coach Jeff Gerhart said it has been adjusting to the elements.

“Obviously the heat has been a challenge,” Gerhart said. “Back home 75 percent of our matches are played inside, as opposed to teams from California or Arizona, where they can play outdoors all year round.”

Gerhart added that it’s not just the heat the team is adjusting to.

“You’re also dealing with wind conditions and the sun,” Gerhart said. “All things you don’t experience when you play indoors so much.”

It has been a similar experience for the women from the New England team competing at the 8.0 level, but they too have been able to overcome the challenge so far. The team is based out of Beverly, Mass., and as soon as they knew they were headed to Surprise for the National Championships, head coach Alex Howard made sure the team only practiced outside to help them better prepare.

“Some of them have indoor tennis leagues that start in September, but when they practice with me I make sure we have practice outside,” Howard said. “It’s not so much the heat, but the air is thinner and the ball travels differently.”

One of the members of the team, Lorraine Salter, said even things such as strategy come into play when having to adjust to playing from indoor to outdoor.

“We’ve had to adjust to higher lobs because obviously lobs don’t go as high when you are playing indoors all the time, which is what we are used to.” Salter said.

If there is one thing that Howard has tried to instill in the team members is that despite not being used to the heat, they can’t let it wear them down if they want to win.

“I always say if you want something bad enough,” he said, “there’s no such thing as getting tired.”