Super Senior Team Nipped in Nationals
One lost set was all that stood between the 60-year-old 3.5 rated USTA tennis team from Pinehurst and a possible national championship.
"There is no way to come closer to winning without winning," said team captain Bill Doerr after his team returned from the national championship held in Mobile, Ala., recently.
The 16-team field boasted 14 teams from the continental U.S., plus one from Hawaii and one from the Carribbean. Those 16 teams were divided into pools of four teams.
Pinehurst ended up in a pool with New England, Pacific Northwest and Eastern. At the end of round-robin play, Pinehurst was tied with Pacific Northwest and New England with identical 2-1 records. Pinehurst handed Pacific Northwest what would turn out to be the eventual champion's only loss.
"In our only loss (at the hands of New England)," Doerr said, "We had two courts lose in 11-9 tiebreakers. If we had won either one of them we would have been undefeated. You can't get any closer than that."
And when it came time to break the three-team logjam, the tiebreaker formally wasn't head-to-head competition, but the team with the fewest sets lost moving on. Pacific Northwest won that tiebreaker, earning a berth in the semifinals where it knocked off Florida before taking out the Carribbean team in the championship final.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime tournament," Doerr said, "and we have no regrets. Everybody played terrific against the best competition in the world."
The team has a history of overcoming heartbreak.
After winning the state Super Senior championship four years in a row, the team of local players finally broke through in winning the nine-team Southern Sectional to reach the national championship. It took a steady three-year progression for the Pinehurst team to earn a trip to the nationals, beginning in 2005 when it failed to make the finals.
Then in 2006, the team reached the finals only to be stopped by Georgia, a team that would go on to win the national championship. In 2007, the oh-so-close bug bit once again as the Pinehurst team lost the finals in a tiebreaker to a team from South Carolina.
This season, the team went all the way, capturing the elusive title, a title made even sweeter because it defeated both Georgia and South Carolina on its way to becoming the first 60s team from the local area ever to bring home a Sectional title.
And but for one lost set, the Pinehurst team might have brought home that rarest of honors: a national championship.
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