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Northern California women striving for undefeated season

Olympic Club 5.0 women's team, 2016 USTA League Nationals
September 24, 2016 08:49 PM

By Arthur L. Mack, special to USTA.com
MOBILE, ALA. – Undoubtedly, one of the most compelling stories of the USTA 5.0 Nationals is the Olympic Club 5.0 women's team, based in San Francisco.

The club is one of the oldest athletic clubs in the United States. Captained by former Ivy League champion Ryan Reichel, the Northern California team consists of players who have had tons of college experience. Now, a mixture of seasoned players, along with players just out of college, have placed the Northern California team on the verge of the impossible: having a perfect season.

The team was 18-0 going into the semifinals here in Mobile, and a national title will be the icing on the cake. Unlike some USTA teams that have a mixture of people from various clubs, all of the members of the team are members of the Olympic Club, which at one time didn’t admit women as members.

Members of the club include Reichel, Jenny Sperry, Angela Hendy, Erin DiCarlo, Alisa Yee, Whitney Vasu, twins Lauren and Kelly Hickey, Kelly Mulready, Michelle Ahlstrom and Caitlin Bartlett. Mulready, a mother of two, has played almost 300 USTA matches and has won USTA League national championships in the past, while Yee has played 400 USTA matches and also has a National Championships background. Di Carlo has played nearly 200 USTA matches and also won national titles.

“This is the first year that this team has come together,” said Sperry, who, along with the Hickey twins, played at the University of San Francisco. “Half of our team consists of new members, and we all contributed and we all played in several matches. We've formed this perfect circle as a winning team.”
“It's a hodge-podge team, which makes it unique,” added Yee. “We share experiences during Nationals. We have the experience and the depth, and the younger players bring the energy. We push each other a lot.”
Sperry said because most of the teams that the Olympic 5.0 women went up against also had college experience, it made for very tough competition.
“Competing in college and competing here have some similarities,” she said. “But now we're here because we want to be here. It’s an option as opposed to what we had to do. I think that it's helped to lighten the pressures that we had, but we're all competitive at heart and still want to win.”
For Yee, a nurse who once played for the University of California-Davis, the thrill of being undefeated is perhaps the most exciting part of the journey. Unlike most of the players competing this weekend, she did not have any junior experience.
“I was a parks and recreation player and I walked on,” she said. “Everything I learned about tennis, I learned from my college coach. It's a little intimidating in that respect, because the rest of my teammates had training as juniors, but this is a great venue to keep their passion and compete.”
Yee added that with all the tennis talent that is in Northern California, the team was very fortunate to make it to Nationals.
“From the beginning, it was like we were competing in Nationals,” she said. “It's been a long season, but we beat each other up in the local leagues, and when we come here, it's not too different. Unlike the other states, we don't have to travel too far. Most other teams have to go to another state or another county and we just have to drive 20 minutes, so we're very fortunate.”
Surprisingly, Sperry feels that there is little pressure to win.
“I think each of us thinks about it once match at a time,” she said. “I was unaware that we were even 18-0. I try to think about what the task is at hand. Each match we have played has been competitive. Sometimes, the match does not reflect what the points look like and how long each game is.”

“Every single team we played against has been kind and has shown incredible sportsmanship, which is a comforting feeling for us,” she added. “We're lucky to be where we are and we're lucky to have the group that we have. That said, we’re going to give our all and come and take it.”