ATA Wins 14U JTT National Championship
ATA’s 14s Dream Team took the top spot at the 2014 JTT 14-and-Under Advanced National Championships in South Carolina last week.
“Truly memorable experience with a great group last weekend in Cayce, SC,” Coach Brian Notis said. “5 out of the 8 team members were on last year’s team that finished 3rd in the country and I really believe their mission to get back to nationals and win began the moment they returned from nationals last year.”
The JTT National Championships brings together the top 32 teams from around the country. ATA’s team, representing the Texas Section, defeated a team from the Southern section 58-30 in the championship match.
Notis led the team made up of Tyler Anson, Kyler Bender, Callie Creath, Bailey Forgus, Kristin Kerrigan, Loli Perim, Jesse Wikso and Georgia Wright.
The Dream Team got to Nationals already quite battle tested. The local Austin league included two strong teams in St Stephens and Polo, and ATA played both teams the same day back in the spring.
“I knew how focused our team was that weekend when I called a team practice the day before and everyone showed up excited to work hard and be ready and the next day everyone arrived in their war paint,” Notis said. “Our players absolutely rose to the occasion that day, and again against tough T-Bar and Houston teams at sectionals.”
The Dream Team started round robin play against SoCal (another SoCal team had won the national championship last year).
“We came out firing on all cylinders and got a convincing win,” Notis said. “We finished the three round robin matches one game short of the maximum 180 possible games.”
The semi’s against Midwest was very competitive in both boys and girls doubles, but Jesse and Callie both dominated in singles and put the match basically out of reach. The Dream Team won GD but lost BD and finished off with a MXD win as well.
The final against Southern was a toss up on paper, but ATA came out determined and confident. Callie beat a very good player in singles and Jesse battled back from 1-4 down in the second set to get a great win 4 & 4, while Loli and KK also battled back in their second set but came up just short to lose in the third-set tie break. Going into boys doubles and mixed, ATA was up 10 games.
In a matter of 10 minutes, the ATA boys doubles team of Tyler and Kyler blew the match open with a 6-0 first set against a very good, but shell shocked team. They closed out the match 0 & 1 and our mixed team won as well for good measure. Final score 58-30.
“It was really a privilege to coach this group. Our strength was our depth and that we were truly a team…not a group of individuals. Every player contributed throughout the season and at nationals. We were focused and disciplined. We brought tremendous energy to practices and especially matches…back in Austin, at sectionals and at nationals. This group won the spirit award at nationals and Callie Creath won the sportsmanship award! We even got asked to do our team cheer for the entire audience at the awards ceremony. Every player on the team chose to skip Excellence to play nationals because they wanted this experience as a team…and I’m so proud I could be a part of that,” Coach Notis said.
After everything had settled down, a few of the players offered their thoughts on the experience.
What was your favorite part or moment of JTT Nationals on the court?
KK: “My favorite part of playing on the court at JTT was the energy. Hearing your name being screamed from your teammates as they cheer you on was sensational.”
CC: “The team spirit. We were really a TEAM. Everyone was still cheering at the last match on.”
BF: “On the court, the best part is being surrounded by your team and playing well. It is a great feeling when you hear people cheering you on and knowing that they really want you to win.”
What was your favorite part or moment of JTT Nationals off of the court?
KK: “My favorite moment at JTT nationals was right before the finals. The announcer called all of our names out on a microphone as we ran down the stairs in the stands heading to stadium court as they played the song of our choice, Blow by Kesha.”
CC: “Playing base tag.”
BF: Off the court, the best part is spending time with rest of the team and playing games like tag and cards.
How/why it is different playing as a team in JTT rather than as an individual in other tournaments?
KK: “Team tennis is very different from an individual event because the scoring is by games, so you could lose a JTT match but get more games than your opponent and help the team out more. (Ex: 6-1, 4-6, 0-1)”
CC: “Team tennis is more fun. You have people backing you up and cheering for you. It also prepares you for college.”
BF: Winning a match in JTT makes you feel like you accomplished a lot more than it usually would in a regular tournament. When your teammates congratulate you and you know you are contributing to winning the overall match, you get a great feeling.
How does it feel to bring a National Championship back to Texas and ATA?
KK: “It feels great bringing the national championship title back to ATA where it belongs.”
CC: “Very good! My life is going good right now.”
BF: Accomplishing a tough goal leaves one with a feeling of excitement. It makes you feel hard to beat. Winning the national title left me with a feeling of confidence that I doubt will go away anytime soon.
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