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Mon, Sept. 23

Column: From Prescott to Tucson, in the playoffs

Twenty-five Prescott tennis players making up two different district United States Tennis Association (USTA) Adult League teams leave today for Tucson to play in the Southwest sectionals throughout the weekend.Gail Wagner and Lisa Cook, co-captains of the women's 3.0 team, qualified by defeating their Flagstaff opponents. Meanwhile, Ray Eccleston captained his 3.5 men's team to sectionals by winning over the Flagstaff men's team. (All teams must complete at least three matches against other teams to qualify for sectionals.)There are 17 sections in the United States and the winners of each section in the 3.0 and 3.5 will continue to Tucson in the fall to compete in the nationals of their respective levels.The USTA Southwest Section is made up of seven districts that encompass El Paso, Texas, New Mexico and all of Arizona. Out of these areas, six teams will be represented: Northern Arizona, El Paso, Tucson, Albuquerque and two teams from Phoenix.Prescott's men's team is made up Eccleston, Russ Wagner, Lennie Smith, Jim Trantham, Orlando Martinez, Dana Wingate, Robert Klauer, Jeff Champ (mainly playing doubles), and singles specialists Vincent Manrique, Dan Oliver and Danny Self. All 11 players will make the trip.Eccleston, who has captained many teams over past years said, "This is the best team we've ever taken to sectionals. Everybody will play and we'll see where the chips fall. We've never made it out of the sectionals so far, and there are some really good teams we'll be playing against, but with the singles players we've picked up we could do well."The women's team consists of Wagner and Cook, Ellie Trantham, Cecilia McGuire, Lee Ewing, Una Loge, Laurie Beeman, Terry Osborne, Karen Julius, and singles players Susan Korte, Jessica Cirelli, Amy Jeffrey, Jodie Rahburger and Robin Fox. Eleven of these players will make the trip with both teams staying at the Westward Look Resort."We have a great group of women with wonderful attitudes and we're just happy to be going to sectionals to play the best that we can," said Wagner, who has been captain of teams the last four years. "Watching the players become a team really makes me feel good and my role as captain, other than all the work it takes to put a team together, is to help create the conditions for this cohesiveness."A few tips to the players from your local pro as you make your way to Tucson.Number one, have fun and enjoy each match. The pressure to perform is a step higher than you normally encounter, so remember that pressure is self-induced and that your opponent is dealing with the same stuff. Relax, take a breath and remind yourself it's just a game and play the best you know how. Laugh and converse with your partner and teammates.Try to get a good warm up before you're called to play your match.Make sure your equipment is in good shape. Prepare your tennis bag with the items that you might need. Cool yourself down on the change-overs with a cold, wet towel.If you're winning, keep doing what you're doing. If you're losing, take the time to see what you might change to make it better. It could be more first serves in (add top spin or a slower pace), higher percentage shots, thinking two shots ahead, simplified strategy or just staying focused to keep your wits about you. Hit the shots you own. Make them hit to your strength. If you win the first set, finish off the second with the same solid mentality and intensity. If you lose the first set, reevaluate and see what you might change to turn the odds in your favor.Enjoy the journey; make some great memories ... and good luck.(Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 30 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 445-1331 or choward4541@q.com)
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