Originally Published: August 15, 2016 11:31 p.m.
Junior team tennis is a fun avenue for up and coming junior tennis players and, in the last four years, the local junior tennis academy – coached by USPTA Professional Sterling Fetty (ATA) from Prescott High School – has been sending teams to the Sectional tournament to compete against other teams in the Southwest.
“Over the years we have learned ways to help other players get involved and made some good connections with other teams around the Southwest Section, and we ended up making a team of four players from Northern Arizona and four players from Central Arizona, in order to continue our goal of making it to the Sectional tournament,” Fetty said. “It turned out to be a great combination. Our first goal was to win locally (which they did), then at Sectionals in Tucson and qualify for Nationals, which is held in South Carolina.”
He continued, “Team ATA showed up in Tucson determined to make it to Nationals in South Carolina. The first match we won easily 36-26. In JTT every game counts and each match has five matches. We were also playing short sets to four games because of the heat, which meant 40 games was the maximum you could get in an overall match.”
The second match for Team ATA was 40-17, against a team from El Paso, Texas, he said. “This put us in great position for our final match of the day and hopefully get us into the semi-finals. We played a two-time Nationals-bound team but this was their first time competing in the 18 and Under division.
“With our more seasoned players and talented players we pulled out the win 36-26. That was the third match of the day and put us in second-place overall. This is when the belief came to our team that we could really pull this Nationals bid off. The next morning we played the third-place team. We came out on fire and won fairly easily for how tough it should have been. The score was 40-17.
“We are now in the final!” Fetty said. “Now it came down to Team ATA and the defending champions from last year and the team took fifth at Nationals last year.”
As the match got under way the crowd started to build and the tension was already there, he related. Most everyone was expecting Team ATA to lose but to be happy with second place – the best showing a NAZ team had ever posted.
“The problem was someone forgot to tell the players because everyone on Team ATA was giving it everything they had,” Fetty said.
The first match off was boys doubles, which Team ATA lost to an incredible doubles team 4-0, 4-0. Next up was girls singles that ATA won 4-1, 4-2. Boys singles and girls doubles come off the courts almost the same time singles ATA won 4-2, 4-3. Girls dubs ATA won 4-1, 3-4, 1 (in the 3rd set tiebreaker).
“As we come into the final mixed doubles match the game score is 24-21 in favor of Team ATA. We have a three-game lead. In the mixed doubles we lose the first set 4-2, which cuts our lead down to one game. At 2-3, in the second set, the match is dead even but worse than that ATA is down 15-40.
“Double match point against us and Nationals on the line,” he said, “if we lose any of the next three points because it is no-ad scoring, we lose by one game and heartbreak is inevitable.”
Somehow at 15-40 Trent ATA’s strongest player pulls off an incredible half volley to save the day, and follows it up with a service winner and they sneak out the duece point for the game. It’s now 3-3 giving ATA a one-game lead in the overall match.
“We play a tiebreaker at 3-3 and the momentum is clearly on Team ATA’s side. It was like destiny took over. Team ATA wins the tiebreaker and goes up by two games.
“There is no way to lose because the third set tiebreaker is only worth 1 game. Team ATA wins the tiebreaker anyways and is headed to Nationals by a three-game difference. An incredible victory and an incredible weekend for these junior tennis players.”
ATA is made up from the following players: Keldy Mason, Dawson Turner, Alex Hisle, Trent CAllaja, Sarah Jane Schott, Anna Miller, Torye Callaja and Alexa Cooke.
Coach Fetty has his work cut out now in helping the kids raise the $8,000 necessary to make this life-changing trip to Nationals in October, and would like to enlist your help in sending them to compete with the top 16 teams in the country by contributing to their “Go Fund Me” page at: gofundme.com/2hkrn9g.
The Prescott Area Tennis Association has pledged $2,000 to help the cause and the Northern Arizona Tennis Association is paying their entry fee of $60 per participant, or nearly $500, and the team members are doing fundraisers as well. Anything you can contribute would be a god-send.
In other local tennis news, remember this is the last couple days to sign up for the fall/winter Yavapai College tennis classes held on Mondays and Wednesdays beginning Aug. 22, noon to 1 p.m. and 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.; 30 hours of great instruction at a price you can’t beat. Register at yc.edu.
Also, two up-coming tennis events. The Men’s and Women’s Doubles NTRP (One Day) Grand Prix, Sunday - Aug. 21 from noon to 4/5 p.m. Sign up with an email to email@example.com with your name, partner and ability level.
The PATA Labor Day NTRP Tournament (Sept. 3-5) consisting of singles/doubles and mixed events. Go online to sign up at prescotttennis.org.
Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or firstname.lastname@example.org.