Nation’s Top High School Tennis Teams Compete for National Championship

The DecoTurf High School Tennis Team Championships is a national invitational high school tennis tournament hosted annually in Chattanooga, TN. The event, which originated in 2008 in Louisville, KY, has hosted thousands of student-athletes from more than 170 different high schools over the last nine years including 100 Team State Champions, 96 Individual State Champions, 59 High School All-Americans and over 150 players that have signed to play NCAA Division I tennis. I will be attending for the second year and will have the opportunity to interview players, parents, coaches, and others involved with this incredible event. Stay tuned for an update early next week!

The 2017 DecoTurf High School Tennis Team Championships returns to Chattanooga, TN for its 10th Anniversary beginning this Friday. The national high school invitational tournament will feature its largest field in tournament history hosting 64 teams from 13 states. The event will host more than 1,000 matches at various facilities throughout Chattanooga on March 24-25th. The 2017 tournament field includes some of the nation’s top high school tennis programs with 16 defending team state champions and 12 defending state finalists participating in the event. The field also features three former high school tennis All-Americans and more than 30 seniors that have already committed to play collegiate tennis.

The Girls A Division features six defending state champions and a pair of former tournament champions. The field is led by top seed Walton, the 2015 Girls A Division Champions, which is coming off a Georgia Class 6A State Championship. The Raiders are led by 5-star recruit and James Madison University signee Liz Norman and sisters Emily and Grace Gaskins.. Defending Girls A Division Champion Baylor, the second seed in the event, is seeking their fifth tournament championship. The Red Raiders, defending Tennessee Division II Class AA State Champions, return five of their top six players from last season’s team including 2016 Tournament MVP Drew Hawkins, a Belmont signee. The third seed in the event is defending Tennessee Division II Class A State Champion Webb School of Knoxville. The Spartans are led by a trio of 3-star recruits in Lauren Yoon, Carina Dagotto and Audrey Yoon. The fourth seed is Jackson Academy, defending Mississippi Independent School Class 4A State Champions, led by TCU signee Meredith Roberts and 4-star junior Faatimah Bashir. Top players will include 5-star rated freshman Elizabet Verizova (North Gwinnett), 4-star recruit and Indiana signee Michelle McKamey (McCracken County) and Alabama signee and 2016 Hannah Belsinger Spirit of Tennis Award recipient Mallory Gilmer (Etowah).

The Girls B Division features the top three finishers from last year’s Girls B Division. The top seed will be defending Girls B Division Champion, Milton. The Eagles are led by 3-star freshman Juliana Mascagni. The second seed is Tennessee High which is led by 5-star junior Chloe Hamlin. The third seed is Starr’s Mill, 2016 Girls B Division Consolation Winner, led by junior Elena Wernecke. The fourth seed is Riverwood which is led by 4-star junior transfer Elizabeth Goines.

The Boys A Division features a loaded field with eight defending state champions and three former tournament champions. The top overall seed is Spartanburg, defending Boys A Division Champion and South Carolina Class 4A State Champions. The Vikings feature a loaded roster that includes Clemson commit and 2016 Tournament MVP Chambers Easterling and 4-star recruits Spencer Brown and Bryce Keim. The second overall seed is defending Georgia Class 6A State Champion Northview. Senior Jeremy Yuan, a Chicago signee, and high-rated sophomore Gavin Segraves lead the way for the Titans. The third seed is 2016 Boys A Division runner-up Saint Xavier. The defending Kentucky State Champions are led by the duo of Furman signee Drew Singerman and junior Alex Wesbrooks. The fourth seed is Southlake Carroll. The Dragons, led by junior 5-star recruit Arman Dave, finished the fall season ranked 4th in Class 6A in the Lone Star State. Top players will include 5-star junior Nicholas Watson (Catholic), Vanderbilt signee George Harwell (Montgomery Bell), 4-star junior Antonio Mora (Ransom Everglades), 5-star freshman Presley Thieneman (Trinity) and 2016 Hannah Belsinger Spirit of Tennis Award recipient Zachary Elliott (Hinsdale Central).

The Boys B Division is led by Georgia powerhouse Etowah. The Eagles are led by freshman blue-chip recruit Josh Raab and Appalachian State signee Cole Heller. The second seed is Milton led by the duo of juniors Justin Neibert and Benjamin Falk. The third seed is Georgia Class 4A state finalist Carrollton. The Trojans are led by 3-star senior Carver Arant. The fourth seed is Brookwood. The Broncos are led by senior Brooks Berry and sophomore Reuben Dayal. Top Players include 4-star junior Jefferson Hobbs (Niceville), 4-star senior Ryan Olps (North Gwinnett) and 4-star sophomore Cole Brainard (Dunwoody).

The Boys C Division is led by top seed and defending Boys C Division Champions George Washington. The Patriots are led by sophomore Anthony McIntosh. The second seed is DuPont Manual led by senior Erich Endres. Top players include 4-star junior Brooks Green (McGill-Toolen), sophomore Hussain Alzubaidi (Siegel) and 4-star 8th grader Walker Stearns (Saint George’s).

For more information visit the DecoTurf High School Tennis Team Championships website at www.hstennischampionships.com.

UTR Adds New Recruiting Aid

The folks at Universal Tennis Rating are making it even easier to find the right fit when it comes to college recruiting.

UTR Fit is a new feature added this week – you can quickly search for all college teams where a college-bound junior’s UTR is above the college team’s number 6 player. You can further filter the search by Gender, State, Division, Conference, and Public vs. Private universities.

NOTE: Be sure to read all the way to the bottom of this article for a very special offer from UTR for ParentingAces readers!

While the Universal Tennis site shows the ratings of all players on a team’s roster, college coaches don’t necessarily field their lineups in order of UTR, so Fit isn’t a perfect tool in terms of determining where a junior might play in the actual lineup. Also, as recruiting consultant Oscar Miranda points out, most college coaches aren’t looking to recruit a #6 player; rather, they are looking to recruit players for the middle to top of their lineup. In that sense, juniors are better off looking for colleges where their own UTR falls somewhere toward the middle of a team’s top 6 players. So, while the current UTR Fit tool doesn’t specifically allow you to search for the average playing roster’s UTR – just as the UTR Fit doesn’t specifically return teams where a junior’s UTR would project them potentially in the top/number 1 position (though wouldn’t that be a great feature for future iterations?!?!), the Fit tool can narrow the field for junior players and help them target the best schools based on their own playing ability and that of the existing team members. Take it from me, with over 1000 college tennis programs out there, having the ability to narrow the field is a huge advantage during the recruiting process!

I asked Bruce Waschuk, CEO of Universal Tennis, a few questions to help clarify how the new Fit feature can best be used:

Lisa: What was the impetus behind adding the Fit feature to the UTR website?

Bruce: Our Team at Universal Tennis is always looking to improve our services and the functionality of the UTR system in an effort to promote level-based play. We believe that if event organizers can improve their ability to group similar levels of tennis players together, that the participants will more likely enjoy their matches, and improve their tennis skills faster.

Although the UTR system was not designed to be a college recruiting system, we understand that hundreds of college coaches use UTRs to determine if a prospective student-athlete is at the appropriate playing level for their team. And in turn, thousands of juniors, and their parents, use the UTR as a measuring stick to determine if college tennis is for them, and which teams a recruit would be a good playing level fit.

Our developers just added a new UTR Fit feature to our system, that allows someone to see within seconds, if their UTR would be at a high enough level to make the starting lineup of a college roster. The College Search report allows UTR Premium Plus subscribers the ability to see all the schools where their UTR is above the level of the sixth highest UTR roster player. From here, the subscriber can filter the school listing by state, public/private, conference and division.

Each college coach will have their own criteria for what they are looking for in a recruit, as well as the UTR level the prospect should be. We believe the UTR Fit tool provides a very quick reality check when setting level of play expectations a junior may have when starting to plan for college tennis.

Lisa: At what point in their junior careers do you recommend players begin relying on this feature to help them with their college search?

Bruce: We’re not in the position to say when a junior should start planning for college tennis, as our Team isn’t focused on the college recruiting process. This is one of the reasons we enjoy reading the many articles on this subject that get posted on your ParentingAces.com website. However, we would recommend the following article to help juniors better understand what type of college tennis experience best suits their interests: “Right Team, but Wrong Guy—How making the starting lineup can backfire” by Eric Butorac

Lisa: What tools do you see UTR adding in the future to make the college search easier and more reliable for juniors?

Bruce: We are working on a variety of tools and services that should help juniors enjoy tennis more through level-based play, chart their development, and show off their game to college coaches.

A few of these include:

UTR Events: Expect many more events in 2017 where juniors can play against current college players within a level-based event.

UTR Doubles: Our new individual rating based on doubles results will be released within weeks. Doubles is kind of important for college tennis.

Player Profiles: We just introduced the ability for UTR subscribers to claim their player profile. Lots of new profile features are planned, which will provide notifications, alerts, and communication among other UTR profiles, including college teams.

Video: The online world is embracing video at a rapid pace. The UTR system is planning to accommodate links to matches for parents to watch their kids, coaches to provide match play feedback, and college coaches to be able to quickly view prospective recruits.

College recruiting is difficult and complicated with rules that seem to change every year. The more tools junior players have at their fingertips to help avoid making a bad choice, the better. UTR Fit is a great addition to a player’s recruiting arsenal.

Now, as promised, here is a great offer for y’all from UTR (just click on the graphic below to go directly to the offer). Be sure to take advantage quickly as it expires the end of February!

College Masters Day 1

img_7684I arrived in Los Angeles late Wednesday night (thanks, Southwest, for the delay!) and pretty much crashed as soon as I got to my mother-in-law’s house. Of course, with the 3-hour time difference, I was up super early Thursday morning with plenty of time to get organized before making the drive up to Malibu for the start of the Oracle/ITA Masters.

The ITA is truly committed to producing some out-of-the-box events for college – and junior – players, and this tournament is just one step forward.

For those of you who have visited the Pepperdine campus and seen its tennis facility, you know what a gorgeous setting it is. I wasn’t sad to spend the entire day there!

Yesterday’s action was all about the college players. The day started with mixed doubles, a unique opportunity for these young men and women to pair off with a partner from within their NCAA conference and have some fun on the court. I didn’t make it out in time for the first round matches (they started at 8am), but I did get to see some amazing women’s singles, men’s singles, and the second round of mixed dubs.

I spent a lot of my time speaking with college coaches, from both the Big 5 conferences and from some of the smaller schools, about the challenges they face in terms of funding, recruiting, scheduling, and promoting their teams. I’ll be writing a more in-depth piece on those conversations once this event is done, but suffice it to say that most of the concerns addressed in the last guest post (click here to read it) are on the minds of the coaches, too.

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Tim Russell, CEO of ITA

I also had the opportunity to speak at length with the CEO of the ITA, Tim Russell, about the challenges college tennis faces and what we can do to overcome them. Tim and his staff have some very creative ideas in the works which I’m also planning to share in a later piece and/or in a podcast.

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Lisa, Tim Russell, Bob & Sally Grabham, Randy Jenks

One of the ways the ITA is thinking out of the box with this particular event is by hosting a player party. But not your typical player party in a hotel banquet room. No! This one was held atimg_7689 Duke’s Malibu, an ocean-front restaurant down the road from Pepperdine. As the players and other guests arrived, waiters served delicious appetizers while the waves were crashing against the massive windows of the private dining room. It was great to see the athletes interacting with each other and making the effort to meet new people from outside their own conferences. Even the juniors were there, and I think everyone really enjoyed the opportunity to get together in a stress-free environment.

I’m getting ready to head back out for some more college matches as well as Day 1 of the Junior Masters at the Malibu Racquet Club. For yesterday’s complete results, check out this link. To follow along with today’s action, you can watch livescoring here and/or sign up for an account with FloTennis to watch the livestream here.

Update on the Oracle/ITA Junior Masters

The regional events are complete for qualifying to play in this year’s Oracle/ITA Junior Masters Championship. Sixteen boys and 16 girls, including qualifying tournament winners and wildcards, will travel to Malibu, California, for the Masters Championships at the Malibu Racquet Club.

Here are the boys and girls who will be playing:

BOYS

Eddie Griesedieck, Mount Pleasant, SC
Mason Beiler, Palm Harbor, FL
Tommy Edwards, Aloha, OR
Garrett Johns, Atlanta, GA
Carlos Hassey, Surprise, AZ
Brady Draheim, Prairie Village, KS
Alec Baskerville, Austin, TX
Ryan Seggerman, Coronado, CA
Cody Lin, Thousand Oaks, CA
Robert Baylon, Buena Park, CA
Eric Hahn, Fullerton, CA
Karapet Vardanyan, Granada Hills, CA
Jacob Bullard, Calabasas, CA
Benjamin Gollin, Solana Beach, CA
Jourdan Kast, Boca Raton, FL
Matthew Terry, Alpharetta, GA

GIRLS

Kiana Rizzolo, Jacksonville, FL
Esther Lovato, Austin, TX
Elizabet Verizova, Suwanee, GA
Anya Lamoreaux, Mesa, AZ
Ellee Dryer, Olathe, KS
Jennifer Kida, Wilmington, CA
Christie Wan, Fullerton, CA
Sydney Van Alphen, Laguna Beach, CA
Anessa Lee, San Marino, CA
Josie Frazier, Scottsdale, AZ
Julia Deming, Fallbrook, CA
Jennifer Richards, San Diego, CA
Gianna Pielet, El Paso, TX
Elizabeth Goldsmith, Chula Vista, CA
Rena Lin, Northridge, CA
Dominique Stone, N. Hollywood, CA

As you can see, there are quite a few players from Southern California who will be competing. I asked about that, since the regional qualifying tournaments were held across the US, and was told that the majority of the Wildcards with the highest UTR happened to be from SoCal.  It’s such a strong section. UTR decided to stick to its policy of selecting the Wildcards with the highest UTR even if it meant an unbalanced sectional representation. It’s yet another way that UTR events differ from those put on by USTA. There are no sectional quotas to fulfill.

I will be covering this event, as well as the College Masters, and am looking so forward to it! If you’re there, please come say hello!

Check Out This Tournament!

imageUTR is on a roll with their tournament schedule, and I couldn’t be happier.

For those of you new to the junior tournament scene, all I can say is you should be very grateful that the folks at Universal Tennis have worked so hard to offer up a real alternative to the traditional junior competition model. I’m just sorry this wasn’t around when my kid was still competing at the junior level.

Take a look at the Flagler College UTR coming up October 8-9 in St. Augustine, FL, for example. Like #TheSol, selection and seeding will be done using UTR, on-court coaching is allowed, and the tournament will provide a healthy lunch to the players. What sets this tournament apart is that juniors and college players regardless of gender will potentially be in the same draw, depending on the UTR of those entered.

Here is some more information:

  • 3-match guarantee.
  • Level-Based Draws guarantee matches are of value by playing others at your UTR level, giving you the opportunity to be competitive and positively impact your UTR.
  • College Players and Juniors could be in the same draw.  Draws will be completely based on level and, as such, College players and Juniors will be in the same draws when they are of similar UTRs.  To date, colleges that are sending some or all of their team are Flagler, Armstrong State, and UNF as well as a few more pending confirmation.
  • Like College Tennis, coaching will be allowed.
  • Being level-based instead of age/gender based, you will likely play against players that you have not often or ever player in the past.
  • Lunch will be served Saturday, good stuff, not junk.
  • Of course, all matches will count toward a player’s UTR.

Interestingly, the Tournament Director for the Flagler event is George Opelka, a Tennis Parent (Reilly’s dad) who has been very vocal about the need for change in the US junior competitive structure. George asserts, “The Flagler UTR tournament is a testament that UTR’s level-based play initiative is catching on in America. As of today (Tuesday), several players representing 3 different colleges have registered for the event in St. Augustine – now that’s exciting!  Thanks to level-based play, the Flagler UTR may even spin up a few Billie Jean – Bobby Riggs matches. Stay tuned!”george-tweet

I’m really excited to see what George and UTR bring to the table for this event! I love the fact that it is being held on a college campus (#SaveCollegeTennis) and that juniors and college players will be in the same draw à la the ITA Summer Circuit events. I also love the on-court coaching aspect – if college players can have coaching, why not juniors who are still developing, right? And, for those of you who are going to argue about juniors needing to learn how to problem-solve on their own during a match, please understand that the coaching is optional, so you don’t have to feel obligated to provide it for your player.

UTR is committed to bringing more of these types of tournaments to juniors around the US and around the world. You can see their entire schedule of events by clicking here. Parents and coaches, I encourage you to bookmark the UTR Tournaments page and check it often. These are exactly the types of tournaments our juniors should be playing in order to help maximize their potential and get prepared for the next step in their tennis journey.

A New Way to Search for Tournaments

Image courtesy of indianagrace.org
Image courtesy of indianagrace.org

 

For the past I-don’t-know-how-many years, we’ve all been conditioned to look for tournaments on TennisLink or the ITF Juniors site, right? Well, it’s time to change how we search for and select tournaments for our junior players.

With the widespread popularity of UTR events (click here for an in-depth explanation of UTR and how it works), many of which are not USTA-sanctioned, we all need to get into the habit of going to UTR’s tournament website, too, when planning our junior (and college) player’s competition schedule. There are some incredible events popping up around the world that use UTR for selection and seeding and that use UTR’s back-end software as well (that’s what we used for #TheSol). Because these events are NOT sanctioned by USTA (which simply means the tournament director did not apply for sanctioning, and, therefore, the results won’t count toward the players’ Points Per Round ranking), they will not appear on TennisLink. The results will, however, count toward the players’ rating on Universal Tennis which is being used more and more by college coaches during the recruiting process.

For those of you new to UTR, here’s how the tournament page works:

  1. Register your player(s) with UTR by clicking here. Click the box to accept the UTR Terms & Conditions, then click SIGN UP. Easy peasy! You also have the option to proceed as a Guest if you just want to see what it’s all about! Note: if you are registering more than one player, you will need to use a different email address for each one. Also, be sure your name, city, and state are identical to those displayed on your UTR rating page.
  2. Once you’ve registered, you will go directly to the list of tournaments where you can search by country, state, and date. You can also search by tournament name if you know it.
  3. When you identify a tournament that is of interest, click on VISIT TOURNAMENT to go to that event’s web page. There you’ll be able to find more detail on the event such as types of divisions, a list of players (if the tournament director has chosen to reveal it – it’s up to each TD to make that choice), draws once they’re posted, and any updates on the tournament itself.
  4. To register for a UTR tournament, simply click on the REGISTER FOR THIS EVENT tab at the top right of the tournament page. At that point, if you haven’t already registered your player in the UTR tournament system, you’ll be prompted to do so before you can register for the specific event. There is NO COST to add your player to the UTR tournament system. There will be a cost, however, to register for the tournament itself. You’ll then be redirected to the tournament entry page where you’ll check which divisions you’re entering, add any contact information required, check the box to agree to the terms and conditions, then click on REGISTER FOR THIS TOURNAMENT at the bottom of the page. Next, you’ll be prompted to enter your payment info, and, voila, you’re done!

One of the features I really like about the UTR tournament system is the tournament director’s ability to email all the players with any updates or changes. As a parent, I always found it frustrating that the onus was on me to continually check a tournament’s TennisLink page to find out if the draws had been posted or if my son’s site had been changed or for any of a number of other important bits of information. With UTR, the TD simply has to click a button to email all entrants, making it very simple to keep the lines of communication open.

I realize it takes time to build new habits, but I encourage all of you to bookmark the UTR tournament page and get used to checking it on a regular basis for new events in and around your area. UTR is here to stay and is offering some real positive alternatives to the status quo in junior competition. Let me know once you’ve tried the site – I’d love to hear your feedback. I’m already a big fan!

 

Sol Schwartz #SaveCollegeTennis All-In Tournament

tounament-logoLately, I’ve posted several opportunities for junior players to get in some tournament play outside of the traditional USTA system: ITA Summer Circuit, Oracle ITA Junior Masters Series, and a variety of money tournaments. None is closer to my heart than the Sol Schwartz #SaveCollegeTennis All-In Tournament presented by Holabird Sports.

As you may recall, the Tennis World lost one of its biggest advocates this past March when my dear friend, Sol Schwartz, passed away unexpectedly. I was unable to go to his funeral in Baltimore, but I knew I wanted to do something meaningful to honor the memory of my friend. For several weeks I wracked my brain to come up with something. Making a monetary donation wasn’t going to cut it. Neither was setting up a scholarship fund. Sol was all about effecting change through tennis, so I knew that whatever I did needed to be sustainable and impactful. That’s how the Sol Schwartz #SaveCollegeTennis All-In Tournament idea was born.

Since I’ve never run a real tournament before, I knew I needed help. Lots of help. I reached out to others in the Tennis World who were close to Sol and who had connections to the tournament realm. That’s how our amazing organizing committee came to be: David Hirshfeld (Holabird Sports), Rob Hubbard (UMBC Tennis which has sadly been cut), Randy Jenks (UTR), and Melanie Rubin (Tennis Parent Extraordinaire). We have also consulted with Sol’s family who have been a great help in terms of logo design (thank you to Sol’s niece, Ali!), promotion ideas, and sponsorship.

The tournament is now a reality. It will take place August 20-21, 2016, at The Suburban Club in Pikesville, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore where Sol lived with his family. It is open to all junior players age 18 and under. In keeping with Sol’s commitment to making tennis affordable for all, we have kept the entry fee very low at $30 per player.

Here are the particulars:

  • The title sponsor is Holabird Sports
  • 16-draw for boys and 16-draw for girls (it is an open 18-and-under draw)
  • Selection and seeding will be done using UTR
  • Compass draw ensures each player will get 4 matches
  • On-court coaching is allowed at changeovers
  • Each player will receive a print program which will include player photos and bios
  • The winner will receive a one-year clothing and equipment sponsorship from a major tennis manufacturer
  • This event is non-USTA sanctioned but will be included in UTR

My hope is that this event will grow and spread to cities across the US. While I wanted to host this inaugural event on a college campus, we weren’t able to make that happen this year. But, the goal is to have Sol Schwartz tournaments in several cities by next summer, all hosted on college campuses in order to raise awareness about the beauty of college tennis. Ever since I met Sol, his mission was to #SaveCollegeTennis, and I’m hoping these tournaments help achieve that mission. Long-term, we would like to establish a 501(c)3 non-profit so the proceeds from these events can be used in the form of grants to college programs in danger of being discontinued.

Registration is open TODAY through August 14th. Click here to go to the tournament website. For information on sponsorship opportunities, click here or email me at lisa@parentingaces.com.

Hope to see you in Maryland!

Oracle ITA Jr Masters

Oracle-ITA Masters Logo

Is your junior player still looking to fill up his/her summer schedule? If so, Oracle and the ITA, in conjunction with UTR, have created an awesome series of tournaments, culminating in the Oracle ITA Jr Masters October 13-16.

Here are all the specifics as I understand them . . .

  • Any junior player born on or after November 1, 1997, is eligible to enter.
  • Each tournament will have a 16-draw for boys and for girls.
  • Selection and seeding will be done using UTR.
  • The tournaments are singles only.
  • Scoring will be 2 out of 3 full sets, no-ad, in order to mimic Division I scoring. The idea behind this scoring format is that the selected players will all be on a college tennis pathway.
  • Similarly, all events will be played on hardcourts, again to mimic Division I competition.
  • The events are not USTA-sanctioned. Therefore, they will not count toward USTA ranking. They will, however, be included in UTR ratings.
  • The winner of each of the 12 regional tournaments will be invited to play in the Oracle ITA Jr Masters to be held at the Malibu Racquet Club and on the Pepperdine University campus alongside the Oracle ITA College Masters event.
  • Wildcards into the October Masters event will be awarded to the top 4 players (based on UTR as of Noon ET on September 14, 2016) who played in – but did not win – a regional event, which will round out the 16-draw in Malibu.
  • The 16 players selected for the Masters event will receive vouchers for travel, lodging, and food. Parents and coaches who accompany the juniors are expected to cover their own expenses.

As I mentioned above, these events are not USTA sanctioned. They provide an alternative pathway for junior players looking for something new. According to Tim Russell, the CEO of ITA, “The main initiative behind the Jr Masters Series is to tighten the connection between the juniors and college tennis. This is the first step toward achieving that goal.” What an incredible opportunity for juniors to play alongside some of the top college players in such a gorgeous setting!

Regionals will be held in New York, Cleveland, Atlanta, Austin, Portland, Jacksonville, Tyler, Boston, Los Angeles, Memphis, Phoenix, and Kansas City.

For all the details on the Oracle ITA Junior Masters Series, click here. Entry deadlines, selection dates, wildcard information, and all other pertinent facts are listed on each tournament’s homepage.

 

Oracle/ITA Junior Masters Championship – Powered by UTR

Here is another article, reprinted with permission, from Universal Tennis. I’m so excited to see this series of events on the 2016 junior calendar! Y’all have heard me say it a million times: without a strong junior development competition system, college tennis cannot survive as a viable pathway for US players. Oracle, ITA, and UTR are doing their part to ensure the future and to #SaveCollegeTennis. Thank you to these partners for thinking outside the box and providing a wonderful series of tournaments (scroll down to see the schedule of regional events) for our junior players.

(Source: ITA, Tempe, Ariz.– Oracle and the Intercollegiate Tennis Association announced a partnership that will include Oracle’s continued sponsorship of the Oracle/ITA Masters, Oracle/ITA Collegiate Tennis Rankings, and the Oracle/ITA Arthur Ashe Jr./All-Star Outing, and add an innovative new series of level-based events for American junior tennis players.

“Oracle is committed to helping grow the game and interest of tennis in America,” said Oracle CEO Mark Hurd. “We’re proud to continue our support of the ITA in competitive intercollegiate tennis and now expanding the program to reach junior players.”

The first step in Oracle and the ITA’s plan to help strengthen American tennis is the announcement of the inaugural Oracle/ITA Junior Masters Championships, which will take place during the summer and fall of 2016.

In announcing the inaugural Oracle/ITA Junior Masters Championship, ITA Chief Executive Officer, Timothy Russell, said: “In expanding our partnership with Oracle, we are excited to add a series of tournaments for American junior tennis players that progress from regional level-based play to a high-level national championship in Malibu, California. We are also pleased to be working with Universal Tennis, with selections for the regional events to be made using the Universal Tennis Ratings, and the tournaments being administered by Universal Tennis atevents.universaltennis.com.”

Harvard Men’s Tennis Coach Dave Fish, a member of the current ITA Board, and a long-standing advocate for level-based play, commented: “What a wonderful new opportunity, an enhancement to the world of junior tennis, building on college varsity tennis as level-based play and the ITA’s vision of what the future of tennis in America might look like.”

Eric Butorac, ATP Player Council president, accomplished doubles specialist and former Division III star at Gustavus Adolphus College, says, “I’m a huge fan of level-based play and UTR. I am thrilled that the ITA, in partnership with Oracle, has expanded the reach of the Oracle/ITA Masters into the world of American juniors. I hope that large numbers of junior players will enter the regional events, with the hope of earning their way to Malibu.”

The regional Oracle/ITA Junior Masters events, for girls and boys, will take place at 12 sites around the United States and will be held in August and September of 2016. The top 16 UTR-rated boys and girls who register in each region will participate in compass draws in those regional events with the winner of both the girl’s and boy’s events progressing to the October 13-16, 2016 Oracle/ITA Masters in Malibu, California – hosted by both the Malibu Racquet Club and Pepperdine University. The regional winners will receive up to a $750 travel/hotel stipend to play in the Masters Championships in Malibu.

Austin Tennis Academy
The Austin Tennis Academy in Austin, Texas will be the host location for the Oracle/ITA Junior Masters Austin Regional tournament that takes place August 20-21, 2016. For more details on the regional tournaments click here.

Russell added: “For college tennis to thrive, American junior tennis must grow and thrive. As the ITA continues to serve college tennis, we must expand our reach in the junior competition arena even more, building on the success of the ITA Summer Circuit. In doing so we will continue to return the leaders of tomorrow.”

The Oracle/ITA Junior Masters will utilize no-ad scoring, the scoring format utilized by ITA Division I programs. The dates and host sites for the Oracle/ITA Junior Masters Regional tournaments are listed at the UTR Events site, events.universaltennis.com. Entries open June 1, 2016.

Last year’s inaugural Oracle/ITA Masters was an overwhelming success. The men’s singles and women’s doubles final were broadcast live on Tennis Channel from the Malibu Racquet Club in Malibu, California. In 2016, the Oracle/ITA Masters will be hosted by the Malibu Racquet Club and Pepperdine University, and will undergo some modifications that will allow more players from across all Division I conferences to participate.

The 2016 event, to be held October 13-16, will invite one woman and one man from each Division I Conference to the championships to compete in both their respective singles as well as a mixed doubles competition.

The draw for men’s and women’s singles has been expanded from 16 to 32, while the doubles shifts to a 32-draw mixed doubles event. Players will be chosen based upon conference representation (similar to the NCAA Tournament). Oracle will receive wildcard selections as they did in 2015.

Oracle will also become the presenting sponsor for the events on the ITA Fall 2016 schedule, including all ITA Regional Championships.

In addition, one of the ITA’s National Championships will undergo a name change thanks to the Oracle partnership, as the National Small College Championships will now be known as the 2016 ITA Oracle Cup. The 2016 ITA Oracle Cup will feature players from Divisions II, III, NAIA and JUCO, who each compete in division-specific singles and doubles national championship tournaments. The winners of each division’s national championship then advance to a “Grand Championship” draw, and the winners of the “Grand Championship” earn a spot in the 2016 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships.

Russell concluded by saying: “We’re thrilled to have Oracle intersecting with all levels of college tennis, as well as with American junior tennis, a lifeline for the future of our sport. The expansion of the Oracle/ITA Masters, the addition of the Oracle/ITA Fall Junior regional events, the branding of the Oracle/ITA Cup, and the branding of college tennis’s fall season, all bring tremendous value to our sport from Oracle and for which we are extremely grateful. We are honored and proud to share a vision match with Oracle, a forward-thinking, innovative company and one of America’s great corporate citizens, the Oracle corporation. Both Oracle and the ITA are committed to raising the profile of our great sport.”

About the ITA

The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) is the governing body of college tennis, overseeing women’s and men’s varsity tennis at NCAA Divisions I, II and III, NAIA and Junior/Community College. The ITA serve all of college tennis, and returns leaders of tomorrow, by administering a comprehensive awards and rankings program for men’s and women’s varsity players, coaches and teams in all divisions, providing recognition for their accomplishments on and off the court. For more information on the ITA, visit the ITA website at www.itatennis.com, like the ITA on Facebook or follow @ITAtennis on Twitter.

About Oracle

Oracle offers a comprehensive and fully integrated stack of cloud applications, platform services, and engineered systems. With more than 420,000 customers—including 100 of the Fortune 100—in more than 145 countries, Oracle provides a complete technology stack both in the cloud and in the data center. Oracle’s industry-leading cloud-based and on-premises solutions give customers complete deployment flexibility and unmatched benefits including application integration, advanced security, high availability, scalability, energy efficiency, powerful performance, and low total cost of ownership. For more information about Oracle (NYSE:ORCL), visit www.oracle.com.

About Universal Tennis

Universal Tennis Ratings provide tennis players worldwide a common scale to determine their level of play. The 16-level scale (from beginners to elite world-class professionals), precisely and reliably determines individual players’ ratings based on actual match results without regard for age, gender or where the matches are played. The Universal Tennis website allows visitors to view more than three million tennis results. College Tennis coaches utilize UTR ratings for recruiting, for scouting opponents, and also to track the levels of their current players. The ITA currently uses UTR ratings to assist with selections and seedings for select regional and national events. www.universaltennis.com.

West Hills Racquet Club
The West Hills Racquet Club in Portland, Oregon will be the host location for the Oracle/ITA Junior Masters Portland Regional tournament that takes place August 20-21, 2016.
2016 Oracle/ITA Junior Masters – Powered by UTR

Feature photo: The 2016 Oracle/ITA Masters takes place October 13-16, in Malibu, California – hosted by both the Malibu Racquet Club and Pepperdine University, pictured here. (Credit: B Waschuk)

There Is A Team For Everyone

Agnes_ScottThis past weekend, I drove just a few minutes from my house to a local DIII college campus to watch some tennis. Agnes Scott College, founded in 1889, is an independent national liberal arts female-only college located in the metro Atlanta area, with a student body size just over 900. The campus is small but beautiful with 6 varsity sports available to the athletically inclined, tennis among them. Its 6 lighted courts were refurbished in 2011, and are still in pristine condition. agnes scott tennisBleachers positioned above the courts make viewing a breeze for the fans who come out to support the Scotties, and a large parking lot adjacent to the courts is super convenient.

On the day I went to watch, there were about 50 people in the stands. It’s not a big number, but, given the size of the school, it is certainly a respectable one. Among the fans were students and student-athletes, parents, staff members, and community members like me. They were cheering on the players throughout the dual match, creating a lively atmosphere for the fans and players alike.

I should mention that my reason for attending the match was two-fold: to honor the memory of my friend, Sol, and to have an opportunity to meet the Agnes Scott coach, TJ Greggs. I figured that since I live so close to the campus, maybe I could volunteer with the team in some capacity. I wanted to get a feel for the team and its home matches in hopes of getting some ideas for where I might fit in. Of course, since the match was in  progress, I didn’t get much of a chance to chat with Coach TJ, but he assured me he would reach out once the season is complete.

I did, however, get a chance to talk quite a bit with Mark and Rebecca, the parents of an incoming freshman player, who came out to support their daughter’s future teammates. Both of them work at other universities nearby, but were thrilled for their daughter to be attending Agnes Scott in the Fall. I asked them about her decision, and they told me she had applied to many top academic schools and was really looking for a place where she could strike a good balance between her academic desires and her athletic ones. Throughout high school she worked very hard in the classroom while also finding time to play on her school tennis team and train with her personal coach. She wants to continue on that path over the next four years.

Looking at her UTR and that of the Agnes Scott team, this seems to be a great fit. And it just Scottiesgoes to show that there truly is a college team for almost everyone who wants to play at this level. If you look at the UTR of the Great South Atlantic Conference as a whole, you can see that the level is quite different than that of the Power 5 conferences. In my opinion, that’s a good thing. It means that a player who wasn’t at the top of the junior rankings – or who even focused solely on playing for his/her school as opposed to jumping on the junior comp circuit – still has the option of getting a college tennis experience.

I’m really hoping Coach TJ will find a way for me to be involved with his team next year – it seems like such a fun group of young women! Regardless, I will definitely be out there cheering on the Scotties and doing my part to #SaveCollegeTennis.