For nearly 300 kids in Middle States, last week was all about team tennis.
For three days last week, 29 teams across five divisions competed for USTA Jr. Team Tennis Middle States titles. Squads from all six Middle States districts – ranging from New Jersey to Pittsburgh – converged on Mercer County Park to battle it out in round-robin format.
On top of the action on the court, dozens of storylines took place from court to court. Each team had a unique road through the 2014 season and had something different to show off during match day.
Team Izzo, representing the Allegheny Mountain District (AMD) in the 14 Advanced division, was no exception. Nearly every team member competing had also served as a ballkid during the 2014 PNC Men’s Futures of Pittsburgh at the Mount Lebanon Tennis Center, where they watched some of the world’s top up-and-comers match up during a week of clay-court action.
“It was a lot of fun – something to aspire to,” said one of the players. “We got to see what players have to do to get to such a high level.”
Teams on other courts were just as unique. Some had been playing JTT together for more than five years – others were made up of high school classmates or even groups of players from rival schools. Some had coaches with tennis backgrounds; others were coached by parents, friends or local volunteers.
In the end, five teams were crowned Middle States Champs, including the Delaware Nightmare (18 Advanced), Pittsburgh’s Team Izzo (14 Advanced), Philadelphia area’s YM Tennis (18 Intermediate), New Jersey’s Nassau Rush N’ Crushers (14 Intermediate) and Philadelphia’s Legacy Youth Tennis and Education (12s).
Teams in the 14s and 18s divisions advance to USTA Jr. Team Tennis National Championships in South Carolina, which take place in October.
Central Pa’s Hershey Heat (14 Advanced) received a wildcard into National Championships.
For photos from the event, check out Middle States on Facebook.
About USTA Jr. Team Tennis
USTA Jr. Team Tennis is a recreational league designed for kids up to the age of 18, and for all playing abilities. The team environment allows players to participate in singles, doubles and mixed doubles action against other teams. Teams compete head-to-head, looking to improve their tennis skills while seeking a national title.
The Road to Nationals
Building a team is where it all begins. Since 1991, Jr. Team Tennis has given kids the opportunity to compete in a co-ed, competitive environment.
There are 17 sectional regions that make up the USTA, and each section is divided into numerous district territories. All players in the 14 & Under and 18 & Under divisions have the chance to reach the District Championships through local league play, and each district champion goes on to compete in Section Championships.
From there, it’s off to Nationals. 2014 National Championships will take place at The Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center and the Lexington County Tennis Complex in South Carolina. 14 & Under divisions will compete October 16-19, and the 18 & Under division will compete October 23-26.