Park City tennis team competes in over-55 women’s nationals
Park City BNP, a local 55-and-older tennis team, competed in the USTA 2018 National Championship Women’s 55 & Over 7.0 competition on Oct. 26 and 27, placing 11th in Orlando, Florida.
To get there, the team had to defeat eight local teams, win a district playoff, and then win against teams from around the Mountain West.
Park City BNP went 5-0 there, earning a trip to nationals, where a 2-2 performance – their only losses of the season – led to the 11th place.
“I never thought I would be part of a team that went to nationals,” said Sharree Olsen, a member of the team. “Of course, it’s what we all work for all season long, but you seldom make it.”
Maree Tomczyk, who has been a captain for USTA tournament teams for more than a decade and led this year’s BNP team, has taken a team to nationals only once before.
“You’ve got to have the right combination of women on your team,” she said. “But the biggest thing is the chemistry.”
Which isn’t easy considering the size of each team. The league that Park City BNP competed in uses a three-team doubles format. PCBNP has 14 players, only six of whom compete in any given match – three doubles teams – while the other eight rest. When two teams play, whichever wins two out of the three doubles matches wins.
“They are fabulous,” Tomczyk said of her team. “Everybody adds to the team in their own way.”
Not to be confused with the bank that sponsors large tennis events, Tomczyk said the Park City team’s name is an initialism for “Bubbles ‘n’ Pop,” the prosecco the team likes to drink after each match. She said some on the team are extremely athletic, like former Olympic cross-country skier Kelly Milligan, and some add to the team off the court, like Deborah Leigh, who took it upon herself to become the team’s statistician.
Tomczyk said the team is mainly composed of retired women from across the U.S., though Tomczyk herself is from Australia.
Their tennis experience is just as varied.
Olsen picked up the racquet in her mid-40s, but before that she said she had played few other sports – none very competitively. The team’s success this year was wholly new to her.
“I was thrilled,” Olsen said. “I never thought I would be part of a team that went to nationals.”
Tomczyk assembled the team with people she knew through her job working at the pro shop in the PC MARC, and the team started playing together in March.
It cruised through its seven Salt Lake region teams, and won a district playoff game to advance to sectionals in Denver on Sept. 21, where they went undefeated.
“There was one match in particular against Nevada that had me in conniptions,” Tomczyk said.
All three of BNP’s teams lost the first set, then all of them came back and won the second set.
“I knew this team was going to be our toughest competitor there and they were,” Tomczyk said.
Each of BNP’s teams came back and won the third, short set to 10 points, and the match.
The team went undefeated through the tournament, and advanced to nationals in Orlando on Oct. 26.
Olsen said most of the team flew down together on a red-eye flight a few days before the tournament so they had time to adjust to the conditions.
Nationals would be held on clay, so the team took a couple clinics playing on the unfamiliar surface.
“The ball doesn’t bounce as high, and it’s a little slower, so you have just a little more time,” Olsen said. “And balls that fly long here, at 7,000 feet, stay in there, so all the balls are coming back.”
Park City BNP won its first two matches – against a team from Minnetonka, Minnesota, and a team from Dayton, Ohio, – in two 2-1 matches.
Then the team lost the third match 3-0 to a team from Little Rock, Arkansas, and lost their fourth against a team from Albuquerque, New Mexico, 2-1.
That night, the team returned to the house they rented and celebrated with a dance party.
Tomczyk said at one point she went out to sit by the pool, and reflected on the season.
“We had been playing together since March, so it was a long time, a long ride, and now it’s done,” Tomczyk said.
USTA does not allow teams that reach nationals to stay together – only three of the players can remain on the team – so Tomczyk said they would have to throw a reunion at some point, where they will break out the prosecco again.
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