After mixing with the Sedona women for the first time ever earlier this year, Prescott has achieved a lofty goal. It has advanced to USTA sectional competition — another first — next month in El Paso, Texas with the hopes of reaching nationals Oct. 24-26 in Tucson.
"It gets real hard with the size of both Sedona and Prescott to find people who play at the same level," Prescott player Lynne Chamberlin said, referring to the low number of 4.0-rated women's players available in the area.
To get to sectionals, Prescott/Sedona traversed a potentially rocky road, one Prescott had stumbled on before.
Initially, the team bounced favored Flagstaff to win the Northern USTA Women's 4.0 League Tennis Championships, and played six grueling matches to determine the northern Arizona division winner. (The 4.0 figure is a national USTA ranking based on a player's number of wins and losses as well as quality of technique.)
Also known as the "areas," Prescott's team had only advanced to the league championships on one other occasion, in 2001.
By virtue of the victory, the Prescott/Sedona combination then moved on to defeat Arizona's Southern division champion, which hailed from Glendale.
In the USTA Regional League Championships July 13 at the Prescott Racquet Club, Prescott/Sedona rolled over Paseo Racquet Club of Glendale, earning the team a first-time bid to play in the USTA Women's Sectional Championships Aug. 8-10 in El Paso, Texas.
"The team that we beat played 25 matches, so they had quite a bit of activity and a lot more experience than us playing that many teams," Prescott/Sedona player Kanani Turner said of Paseo. "I think we have just as good a chance as any of the teams (to win at sectionals) because we beat two first-class teams."
Prescott/Sedona won three doubles matches and lost a pair of singles matches en route to defeating Paseo. At sectionals, Prescott/Sedona will play one match on each of the three days in a round-robin format, tackling squads from New Mexico, Texas, and Tucson.
Of the four teams, the one with the best overall record at the tournament will be crowned sectional champion and attend nationals, where five champs are represented. If a tie occurred between teams at sectionals, the squad that won the head-to-head meeting in the round robin competition would advance.
"We're going with nine players, so some people may not play all three (matches)," Turner said. "We're guaranteed to play at least one match."
Turner, Chamberlin, Patti Enders, and Allison Wood are among those competing for Prescott/Sedona next month in Texas.
Wood, a singles player who has been a USTA competitor for 10 years, lost her regional match to Paseo's Viola Prudhome, 2-1. But she's prepared to rebound in sectionals.
"Being successful as a team has been gratifying," said Wood, a local business owner who often travels to compete in tournaments.
For years, Chamberlin played USTA tennis in California and went to nationals at the 4.5 level a decade ago. Upon her arrival in Prescott, she was rated higher than 4.0, meaning she had to sit out for a season and get re-rated. The higher the rating, usually the better the player.
"I think the team camaraderie and working as an individual team in doubles (is most rewarding)," Chamberlin said. "I can't imagine playing singles, and being out there on your own without anyone to boost you."
Enders, who originally played competitive tennis in Tucson, has been on two Prescott USTA teams in four years here. She is scheduled to pair with team captain Lynn Sanford of Sedona in sectional doubles action. Sanford first initiated the dialogue between the Prescott and Sedona teams in January, urging them to combine forces.
"I just want to play well, communicate with my partner, and have a good time," Enders said. "I want to keep this in perspective and do the best we can."
She said Prescott Racquet Club provides the easiest avenue for women to play the sport together because of the large pool of athletes who congregate there.
She added that it's hard to form one's own team by going to Yavapai College or establishing a personal network.
"Once you get here it's easy to find people who play at your level so that you can keep working on your game," Enders said.
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