The women’s 7.5 senior combo team from the Ashland Tennis Center waited years for a moment like this one.
The 11-member squad with players from Ashland, Ironton and Huntington recently won the state championship in Louisville.
“We couldn’t stop cheering for ourselves,” team captain Janice Watson said. “Just the excitement overtakes you.”
The age 55-over doubles competition is a best-of-three-courts format, with each doubles pair consisting of 4.0 and 3.5 level players.
The local team went undefeated in five matches and will advance to the Southern sectionals at Dothan, Ala., in March.
“To do it and not lose any matches was especially sweet,” Watson said.
Along with the captain, team members included Peggy Thirion, Linda Bates, Claris Dufore, Kathy Bloomer, Betty Adkins, Carole Ferry, Leandra Gain, Linda Lane, Karla Leibee and Cindy Gue.
Watson said the 4.0 members of the team have played together for more than 20 years.
“As a team, this is the first time we’ve gone to sectionals,” she said. “A couple of individuals have gone, but for the most part it’s a new experience for us.”
Hence the outpouring of emotion afterwards.
“A lot of shouting,” Watson said. “It was probably annoying to the people around because of us carrying on.”
After playing outdoors the first day, the Ashland team spent two days on the indoor courts at Louisville Racquet Club due to heavy rains.
“We played very well,” Watson said. “The matches the whole weekend were competitive. We didn’t run away with anything.”
The champs beat two teams each from Lexington and Louisville, along with another from Purchase. Ashland’s depth came in handy.
“All the players figured into it, everybody had their part,” Watson said. “Playing the five matches within 2 1/2 days, it helps to have a larger team. You can rotate and play fresh people. We are a very cohesive team.”
Each member received a championship blanket. Gue, who celebrated a birthday during the tournament, and Bloomer won all four of their matches.
Watson said the 4.0 and 3.5 groups normally don’t play a lot together, but this year they practiced for several months to get ready for the tournament.
All 11 players plan on making the trip to Alabama for the nine-state sectional.
“We always take a lot of pride in representing Ashland and the tennis center,” Wilson said. “The Louisville and Lexington teams play in leagues that have eight or 10 teams. Our leagues are much smaller than that. It’s nice to have the tennis center to promote USTA play like that.”
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2671.