Members of the award-winning Heritage Highlands, Dove Mountain Highlanders tennis team include, from left, Joe Camara, Alyson-Anne Roeder, Carole Dade, Alice Howard, Rachel Rulmyr, Bob VanBuskirk, Dee Kaumeyer, team captain Jeff Kaumeyer and Don Black. Missing from the photo are Bob LaVahn, Suzi Paulin, Joanne and John Posluszny, Jerry Stillman and Gary Schaefer. courtesy photo

The 15-person tennis team from Heritage Highlands, Dove Mountain, finished second in the United States Tennis Association’s National 7.0 Senior Mixed Doubles Championships, held April 8-10 in Surprise, Ariz. That’s No. 2 among approximately 1,150 teams with about 13,500 players.

And the weekend’s competition sure didn’t lack for drama.

The tournament consisted of 15 teams of players ages 50 years and over from around the United States and the Caribbean who had qualified by winning their local leagues. The teams went on to win state titles and then capture one of 15 sectional championships.

The Highlanders dominated the local Southern Arizona league with a 9-1 record last spring. We qualified for nationals last September by winning the SouthWest Section against teams from Arizona and New Mexico.

In the huge, new tennis complex in Surprise, the Highlanders first played four other teams in their flight.  Each match consisted of three individual matches of two sets and a 10-point tiebreaker, if necessary.  

The team secured an opening 2-1 win over the Florida Section winner, from Miami. We locals then won all three courts against the Missouri Valley Section winner, from Oklahoma City, in our second match on Friday.

We played the Pacific Northwest Section winners, from Portland, Saturday morning. That match was delayed by that afternoon’s rain. But the Highlanders did not lose focus during the four-hour delay. Team members used our strength again to win the match 2-1 despite losing on the No. 1 court.

Play was postponed again late in the day and did not resume until 11 a.m. Sunday.  

That’s when the Highlanders faced the other undefeated team in the flight, from Morton, Ill., representing about 125 teams from the Midwest Section. After a 0-3 defeat, we were left waiting to see if we would get the fourth slot in the semi-finals by finishing with the best second-place record in the three flights.

We earned our spot by narrowly edging out Hawaii with the best percentage of games won versus games played in the tourney, and were matched against a team from Los Angeles representing the Southern California Section.

Once again, it was David against Goliath (smallest Section against largest Section) and retired senior citizens (average age 65) against a bunch of young whippersnappers (average age about 54).  

The Marana team, from our “active adult” (over 55) community, was undoubtedly the oldest team in the entire tournament.

The Highlanders won one and lost another against the youngsters, and the trip to the finals hinged on the outcome of the game played on court No. 1. We lost the first set 4-6 and trailed in the second set 2-5, but we oldies but goodies mounted a comeback.  We turned the second set around and won in a set tie-breaker, 7-6.  The Highlanders pair won the third-set tie-breaker, 10-8.

It was on to the finals.

The re-match against the Midwest Section for the finals was anything but a cakewalk for the team from Marana. The Highlanders lost our center-court match, but then upset the previously undefeated No. 2 team 7-6, 6-1. On court No. 3, it went 6-3, 3-6.

We were up 8-6 in the third set, which was the championship match and tie-breaker. But our dream ended with the Midwest players winning 8-10.

The Highlanders are a bunch of very competitive folks, but second place never felt so good. We are proud as heck of our team and delighted to have the USTA banner hang in our clubhouse.

It is just the first.

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