The Eastern BG16 National Team finished in 4th place at the USTA Intersectional Team Championships, the best finish for Eastern in six years. “I had a good feeling going into this one,” said Julie Bliss, Director of Junior Competition and Player Development, “We had a strong core of players that had been playing together for a while.” The tournament was held during the second week of July in Shreveport, Louisiana, where players could not escape the extreme heat. Though temperatures regularly hit 100 ° F throughout the tournament, Eastern fought through the heat and demanding match schedules to produce outstanding results. “I made sure to emphasize fitness in the month before we left,” said Coach Marvin Dent. “The Southern teams normally have such an advantage because they are used to the conditions and used to the clay courts, but our team did not show any signs of weakness.”
Every team match consisted of three girls’ singles, three boys’ singles, girls’ doubles, boys’ doubles, and mixed doubles, for a total of nine individual matches. The team won their flight, defeating the Carribean and Northwest section teams without dropping an individual match, and then fighting off the Texas team for a 5-4 win.
Tess Bernard-Feigenbaum, Leighann Sahagun, Amanda Muliawan, and Jamie Loeb comprised the girls’ team. The boys’ team consisted of Andrew Adams, Richard DelNunzio, Winston Lin, and Bert Vancura. Dent spoke highly of DelNunzio and Vancura calling the two “outstanding” for their undefeated individual performances. The two excelled in doubles play as well, despite never having played together before. They went undefeated, including a win over the #2 doubles team in the country.
Coach Dent attributed the team’s success to the feeling of unity: “The team went through some exercises to enhance the bonding experience. Tennis is so individual but to get good results here we needed to get the team members to think that they were a team, that they were representing a team, and representing Eastern.”
“It was cool,” said Vancura, “We play against each other in sectionals the whole year but we came here and we were really a team. Coach Dent offered us some really good advice. He always gave us a speech before we went into the matches to inspire us and it worked.”
The combination of team unity, great players, and the experience of Coach Dent all were enough to lead the team to the semifinals. However, the team was not willing to take any chances and stuck to their good luck pre-match pump-up ritual without fail. “We played ‘Fantasy’ by Mariah Carey every time before the matches,” Dent admitted, “We never went into battle without blasting that loud.”
Congratulations for a stellar finish to the entire Eastern team!