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Hilton Head Island team goes for more in return trip to National Championship

September 17, 2015 03:37 PM

By Jonathon Braden
USTA South Carolina

Tammy Zawacki McMonigle and her Hilton Head Island team were done. They had lost at the USTA South Carolina 18 & Over League State Championships. Their dreams of returning to a USTA National Championship would have to wait a year.

Or so they thought.

McMonigle's 5.0 team, like many USTA teams during a given year, was given a wild card to advance to the 2015 USTA League Adult 18 & Over Southern Sectional Championships.

At the Southern championships, the GRITS, for Girls Raised In The South, took full advantage of the wild card. The team, which has been playing together for about three years, played great at Southerns and now will have a chance to bring a USTA National Championship back to South Carolina.

The GRITS, for Girls Raised In The South, is hoping for a strong finish in Indian Wells, California, this weekend. The team, from left to right: Marissa G. Chapin, Katrina G. Barnes, Michael Ballard, Taylor Taylor, Deanna Vroman and Tammy Zawacki McMonigle.

This weekend, McMonigle and her team will play at the 2015 USTA League Adult 18 & Over 5.0 National Championship in Indian Wells, California. But before they headed west, McMonigle took time to answer questions about playing at a USTA National Championship, what drives her and her teammates and what they enjoy the most about the USTA League program.

Who is all on your team?

Myself, Tammy Zawacki McMonigle; Deanna Vroman; Michael Ballard; Taylor Taylor; Marissa G. Chapin; Katrina G. Barnes.

How long have you been playing league tennis?

I have been playing league since 2008-2009.

What makes your team truly unique compared to other teams?

We have a team that feels the need for redemption and a hunger to win. Losing at states, made us stronger. We want to prove ourselves all the way to the top!

What’s your favorite part about USTA South Carolina league tennis?

What I enjoy about playing in SC League Tennis is the fact that I can go on the court and play competitive tennis against opponents that I respect. For example, in 2011, Marissa and I played against each other in a very fierce singles battle. We were not friends before or after the match. However, we gained respect for each other due to the competitive play and now we play on the same teams and have become good friends.

Another example of the amazing, good-spirited competition in SC is our first state match this year. We drew Spartanburg and it came down to my match. We lost in a heartbreaker: third set breaker. On match point, my return of serve went wide! But, even though we lost, that was probably my favorite match because the tennis was so great and the sportsmanship and respect were so evident. Those are the matches that signify what USTA League is all about and makes me keep coming back for more.

Y’all are playing at a very high level. What, in your opinion, separates the best at the 5.0 level?

The mental game for sure. All of us have been fortunate enough to have played tennis beginning in our youth and everyone, at this level has pretty strokes. In my opinion, the best players are the ones who hunger for it and work hard to achieve their success. Everyone on this team not only practices but we condition in our spare time. We all have jobs, families, and still find the time to work on our game mentally and physically. When one works that hard, she then goes out on the court with the mind frame, “I deserve to be here and I am going to fight."

Have you all been to a USTA National Championship in the past? If so, what was the result?

Yes, in 2013. Deanna, myself, Marissa and Michael played at Palm Springs. Unfortunately we lost in the first round to the team that came in third or fourth. It didn’t feel good to lose that first match. We have been thinking about it in the intervening few years and we are NOT going to lose that first round again. We will get out of our bracket this time!

Marissa, Deanna, Katrina and I also played on the same 10.0 mixed team and won nationals that same year (2013). We had been given the privilege to go twice in one year.

In 2011, my team won 10.0 nationals and last year, the 10.0 mixed team I played on came in second in nationals.

You’re headed to Indian Wells, right? What most excites you about that opportunity?

We are beyond excited. We have a great team, quite frankly, a very competitive team. We want it! We want to redeem ourselves from 2013. As I mentioned, we lost at states this year. We have been fortunate to have been given a second chance. We want to thank both South Carolina and Southern for that! Without that wild card, we would not be going and we want to make you all proud!

The team goal for the USTA National Championship:

We would love to take home the title. We will be playing against some fierce competition. So, my first goal is to win our flight and get to the semifinal round. Basically, place in the top four. One of our teammates promised us that if we win nationals, she will take us to Costa Rica!

How will you all duplicate your success in Indian Wells?

Hopefully we will exceed our results from 2013. We all have been training for this since receiving the wild card after our loss at states.

What else should we know about your team?

USTA League has brought us together. We all have played against each other at USTA states. We gained mutual respect for each other which has turned into friendships, long-lasting friendships. We might have started as opponents but now I am very proud to say that these five ladies are more than teammates, they are my friends. Isn’t that what USTA League is about? Meeting new people, showing that sportsmanship and respect and turning that into a friendship?

We just have an awesome team. Our team is a fun group where we share so many laughs on our trips. We all have the ability to laugh at ourselves. We still even laugh from the things that happened in 2013. We have a group text and are in frequent contact with each other. It is not just about tennis, as I said, we are good friends and are there for each other if someone is having a bad day or just needs a laugh, we are there.

If none of us played USTA SC, our paths would never have crossed.