— USTA national championship —
By Steve Wilaj
When the local United States Tennis Association team, comprised of 10 women from Northeast Ohio, realized they won the Midwest Tennis Championship, they couldn’t help but celebrate.
“We were chanting O-H-I-O, O-H-I-O,” team captain Sue Brown said. “With all the Michigan people and the Wisconsin people, you kind of had the Big Ten feeling there.”
The women celebrated their Midwest championship on Aug. 26 in Fort Wayne, Ind., after defeating the state champions of Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois. The victory clinched a spot in the USTA National Championship in Palm Springs, Calif., where they finished second.
“I am beyond excited and extremely proud,” head coach Pam Steinhauser said. “I’m elated and just so happy for these ladies because they’ve worked really hard.”
Team members are Heidi DeNiro, Lynne Rosati, Karen Miller and Shelly Cerimele of Boardman; Shirley McMahon, Jill Herock, Christy Wellham and Brown of Canfield; Shirley Neher of Ellsworth; and Melissa Chaves of Howland.
In California, Youngstown, the Midwest champion, lost to a team from San Antonio, Texas, 2-1 in the championship match. In the semifinals, Youngstown defeated a team from San Juan, Puerto Rico, by a 2-1 score.
The women, a 3.0 Senior team (ages of 50-60), represent the Boardman Tennis Center.
“Being women our age and having a team even though you’re adults and have other things to do has been a blast,” Brown said.
The team was formed by combining players from different regular season teams at the Boardman Tennis Center into one team.
Although most of the women on the Senior team play separately during the regular season, the transition into one is seamless.
“I have a different partner during the season and I like to beat all my other friends and they wanna beat you, but it’s in a good way,” Brown said. “When this season comes and we play with each other, we just really appreciate what everyone brings.”
Steinhauser described the group as a “second family.”
“They all have their children and they all have their husbands,” she said. “But when they’re together it’s like they’re one big family. They support and they’re there for each other.
“It’s almost like we’re in a dream because it’s just so wonderful.”
The dream began when the local ladies won the NEOTA Championship on Aug. 4 at Western Reserve Racquet Club in Hudson. They then traveled to Toledo for the state championship, where they played northwest Ohio and Ohio Valley, not losing a single match.
“We were just so excited to have won [state],” Brown said. “To go to state and beat everyone we played was really special.”
That set up the trip to Fort Wayne, where the five states had to play each other in a round-robin format. The Boardman Tennis Center representatives won every match once again, defeating Wisconsin 3-0 and the other states 2-1.
“Was I surprised we did what we did? No,” Steinhauser said. “I really think they are this good. I think now they believe me that they’re this good.”