This week, the beautiful city of Cayce, South Carolina is playing host to one of the most anticipated events each year on the USTA calendar. I'm talking about the USTA Jr. Team Tennis 18U National Championships.
In most cases, tennis is an individual sport, in Cayce, the team is the focus.
So says Sam Kennedy, coach of the USTA Southern 18U team.
"Well they are adjusting to the team concept quite well. We say "Team First" and we have stressed that the whole week."
The USTA Southern 18U group should be tough to beat.
This year's squad consists of: Jason Byrd, Justin Byrd, Sam Kennedy, Zachaey Kennedy, Kelli McKinney, Monica Thomas, Sydney Thomas and Summer Walker.
So far they are undefeated at 2-0, but this week is more than just tennis to these juniors.
"I like this (format) a lot," says Monica Thomas, who is playing doubles this week. "It takes the pressure off, and the environment is light- even though it's a national tournament."
The players were treated to a player's party on Friday night, but come Saturday, for the USTA Southern team, the focus goes back on tennis, because the Southern section is usually the favorite.
"The USTA Southern's membership base is so huge and so much stronger than many of the other," explained Kennedy before the team's match on Friday afternoon. "The number of people that play in Georgia and the Atlanta area is huge. It's like a farm system- they've been playing junior team tennis for years."
This competition started back in 1991 and USTA Jr. Team Tennis continues to provide young players with all of the health and social benefits of tennis in a co-ed competitive format. It's also fun as the players are grouped by age and level. This is tennis that is about more than just winning and losing.
It's also about college as some of these players will go on to play as a member of a team in college.
Monica's sister Sydney has played Jr. Team Tennis in the past and now plays in college.
"She's given me advice," laughs Monica Thomas. "She says don't think of it so seriously; everyone needs each other and it's a team sport."
Here is how the USTA Southern team has fared in Friday's matches. Each game counts in the scoring.
Opponent Location Winning Score & Status
10/25/2013 @ 2:00 pm #1437608
vs Southwest Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center
60-4 match summary
10/25/2013 @ 9:30 am #1437607
vs Missouri Valley Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center
56-25 match summary