02/27/08 — First-year group exceeds expectations for season

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First-year group exceeds expectations for season

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on February 27, 2008 2:29 PM

The fall tennis season at Walnut Creek Country Club saw a newly-formed team ascend to the highest level of competition -- all in less than a year.

"Some of the ladies on the team haven't even been playing competitively for a full year yet," Walnut Creek tennis pro Lee Bailey said. "I am really proud of what the team was able to accomplish in such a short period."

After deciding to field a team and play in the "combo" doubles season, Bailey and his group of talented -- but inexperienced players -- completed an undefeated regular-season schedule.

"If you would have told me that we would go 20-0 out of the gate I would've never believed it," Bailey said.

In the 5.5 "combo" doubles format, players of different ability levels are paired together to create even matchups. Ideal for a new team like Walnut Creek, the strategy allowed some of the less-experienced players to pair with veteran counterparts.

Following regular-season play, the ladies from WCCC advanced to the Downeast Division competition in October. They easily made short work of the field.

"When the team started to mesh I thought we were going to be good," said Bailey. "When we won the Downeast, I thought 'this team has a chance to compete at any level.'"

Following their initial postseason victory, WCCC moved on to the state tournament in Winston-Salem. Once again they played well enough to take home the hardware and earn a trip to the Southern Sectionals in Baton Rouge, La.

"The southern region is the biggest region in the country, and features some of the best tennis," Bailey said.

Tournament officials split the 10-team sectional into two groups of five teams. Downeast logged a 4-0 ledger against Group II competitors from Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and Georgia.

Captain Liz Dove and her team then captured a 2-1 decision against Group I champion Murfreesboro (Tenn.), and their dream season was complete.

"I don't think I would call it an upset that we won," Bailey said. "Our team played really well, and worked really hard."

In the fall season there is not a national event to pit winners of different regions against each other, but Bailey would like to think Walnut Creek would have shown well on such a stage.

"I really wish there was a national competition, because I think we could have been able to contend," Bailey said. "In the spring season there is a national event, so we'll see if we are fortunate enough to get that far. We are taking it one day at a time and to their credit, all of the ladies have continued to work on their game.

"It's been a lot of fun so far."

The spring season begins March 3.