Team Southern Women Repeat as National Champs

November 13, 2013 04:58 PM
Jan Deener (KY), Carolina Blouin (GA), Sophie Woorons-Johnston (SC), Paula Juels Jones (AR), Autumn Sisk (GA),and Marissa Chapin (SC), Captain 2012-13 Fran Chandler (TN, not pictured).

By Sophie Woorons-Johnston, Ph. D

The USTA Southern women's 35s team repeated as Intersectional national champions, defeating the USTA Texas team 4-1.

The Intersectional National Hard Court Championships are an amazing conglomeration of the best players in the country representing their USTA Section.  It’s an Open level event, by age group, where each section recruits the best to represent them at this National event.

The camaraderie is amazing, and the competition fierce, as players -- former touring professionals, former college Division I players -- battle for the Championship. The format is 3 singles and 2 doubles. Age divisions include 35s, 45, 55, 65, 75s and 80s. Come watch those matches and you’ll recognize names from Grand Slams past, players you have seen battling on television and the rest of us who are trying to survive among the stars.

The event was played in Boca Raton, Fla. the week of Nov. 4. As we arrived on Wednesday, getting ready for the 35s, other age groups were well on the way and were teasing us: “The babies have arrived!”

We started seeded No. 2 behind Intermountain who was led by Simona Bruetting, an amazing player from Denver Co.  We played our first match against Midwest and took the win 5-0.  We had a bye the next day and took the opportunity to go practice and figure out doubles team combinations and possibilities. A big thanks to Fran Chandler, the team captain for the 45s and 35s for getting all of us together.

The semifinals were an epic day. Rain delayed the day with most of the consolations matches canceled but the organization had the brilliant idea to send us to Fort Lauderdale were the sun was emerging. We went into battle with Florida. The format was reduced to no-ad scoring and third set tiebreak due to the rain delay. I played at No. 1 but my opponent retired due to injury at the beginning of the second set.

Marissa Chapin took no prisoners at No. 3 singles. We were leading 2-1 after the singles. No. 1 doubles fell short with a 9-11 loss in the third-set tiebreak. So it came down to Marissa and Paula Juels Jones as they faced and defeated two amazing doubles players to bring the victory to Southern.

Lurking in the other side of the draw was a very strong Texas team.

At No. 1 for Texas, one of my personal friend and Team USA teammate Patricia Zerdan. I showed up on fire and took the match 6-1, 6-2. Julie Kass of Texas responded with an equally determined win at No.2.

Marissa was fighting in the No. 3 singles. By the time the No. 1 and 2 matches are done, Marissa is still in the first set. She goes up 1 set to love. Texas' Meredith Walton wins the second set battle 6-4. After a 10-minute break, Marissa triumphs in an epic third set and Southern goes up 2-1 after the singles.

Marissa… so glad you didn’t tell us you were pregnant with your little boy … really! Way to fight! And congratulations!

Now it’s down to the decisive doubles. At No. 1, Sophie and Jan Denner, and at No. 2, Paula and Autumn Sisk. 

For Paula and Autumn, the match is very close and the girls are fresh, ready to compete. Southern loses the first set 5-7 but turns around and wins the second set. At No. 1 doubles. Texas' Julie Kass is a beautiful serve-and-volleyer. Her partner, Walton, also sets her up efficiently.

Jan and Sophie are playing, talking, moving, crossing, the flash back from their Clemson University matches together are coming through. In the end, Sophie and Jan take control of the match.

Southern prevails. Texas shows class and respect. Southern comes home National Champions for the second year in a row! Back to back Championships! Hard Courts 2012 and Clay Courts 2013.  

Way to go team! An incredible performance! Go Southern!