Just two years ago, Janet van Mol wasn’t sure she had enough time to learn tennis. Today, she can’t imagine her life without it.
Van Mol and her teammates on the 2.5 Newbies team will compete next weekend at the USTA League Section Championships in Middle States. In their first season of USTA League Tennis, the group is determined to get on the court and show how far they’ve come – and how much more they’re ready to achieve.
“I remember when we first started playing tennis, some other ladies at the club played USTA League Tennis and were picking up their uniforms for the next year,” van Mol said. “We were beginners and didn’t think we were ready, but we had that as a goal. We aspired to play as a team, and we’re so happy we did.”
Van Mol, the team captain of the Newbies, was first persuaded to try tennis by her husband, Rudi, and a friend, Stacey Anderson. Rudi, a talented player himself, always wanted to play mixed doubles with Janet.
That was nearly two years ago, and soon she met the majority of her teammates at a beginners’ clinic. Van Mol, along with just about everyone else in that clinic, was quickly hooked.
Even as a beginner, van Mol enjoyed the competition, the camaraderie and the rapid pace of improvement experienced on the court.
Forming a team for the first time this year, the team quickly came together and found success, coming up with strategy before each match and practicing hard whenever a chance was there. The group ended the regular season with an 8-0 record, overcoming plenty of tough matches along the way.
“I remember one match, we all drove together – five of us in a car, van Mol said. “I played singles and was up first. I lost the match and was just devastated. But I’ll never forget the feeling I had later, watching our doubles teams go out there and win the match for us. It was a total team effort, and even though we didn’t all play together, it showed how exciting tennis is as a team sport. It was an exciting moment for our team.”
Personally for van Mol, tennis has been more than a hobby. Just last year, the sport became therapy.
A scare with cancer late in 2012 put van Mol in surgery the day after Christmas. During her recovery in the coming weeks, her teammates cooked her meals and provided support every step of the way. The owners and staff at Nassau Tennis Club also pitched in, providing all the help they could during her difficult time.
“I couldn’t believe the support and the help,” van Mol said. “I was back to playing in four weeks, and when I got back, I said, ‘We’re doing this, we’re playing USTA League this year.’ It was good timing, it worked out.”
Officially addicted to tennis, Van Mol said she expects – and hopes – she and her teammates to be bumped up to 3.0 next year, and they will continue to aim at improving each step of the way. The Nassau Newbie team credited former coaches at Nassau, Cesar and David, for all the help, as well as their current coach, Gino.
“Our team is so excited about going to sectionals, and our motto is ‘In it to Win It,” she said. “We already have plans to play on a few 3.0 teams this fall. We want to be bumped up, because even though we might not be as successful each match, it’ll give us a chance to improve and get better.”
Section Championships in Middle States begin next Friday. Additional stories, photos and more can be found on the Middle States Facebook page throughout the weekend.
Newbie team members include (from left to right, photo above): Jignya Patel, Kari Nicol, Janet van Mol, Alison Covello, Michelle Lependorf, Sarah Brake, Val Lisowski, and coach Gino Carosella. Missing from photo is Gina Roche.
For more information on USTA League Tennis and how to get involved, click here.