Looking to increase USTA League participation in and around San Diego and North County, weekend play was offered for the first time for local women’s leagues a year ago.
This season, one of those weekend teams is a North County 18-and-over 4.0 team that plays out of Kit Carson Park in Escondido and captained by veteran league player and Chula Vista resident Yen Hagler. The team won the six-team league, and then advanced on to Sectionals where the squad was also victorious earning the ultimate prize for a league player: A trip to Las Vegas to compete in the Nationals Oct. 18-20.
“We know that the men are allowed to play on weekends but we were only allowed to play during the week, and that excludes a lot of the women who work from playing during the week,” said Hagler, 45, a third-grader teacher in National City. “This league has made it possible for us to play.”
Randie Lettington, USTA League Coordinator for San Diego and North County, was responsible for adding the weekend play for the ladies. “Over the past two seasons we’ve experienced the biggest league growth of any other area in the nation,” Lettington said. “We’ve done a lot to layer in new leagues and that is where our growth has come from. We still have a large group of weekend tournament players who don’t know the weekend league exists. This just gives them more opportunities.”
Lettington added: “Yen is a very pro-active captain and plays all over San Diego. She’s very good at pulling players from different areas and they have had success. It’s pretty exciting to send our first weekend team to Nationals.”
Hagler said she enjoys the competition of league tennis and the social aspect of being part of a team. “I’m definitely making the most of being an adult league tennis player,” she said. “There are lots of opportunities to play in San Diego and it is much more rewarding bringing victory to my team and not just doing it as an individual.”
Hagler said her team is not filled with traditional league players. “We play a lot but this is just our second time all playing together,” Hagler said. “For most of these players, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance.”
Hagler’s team is a collection of skilled players from throughout the area. The team is led by singles player and youngest player at age 27, Lauren Weiner, who is undefeated this season. Others include: Janene Christopher, who serves as Balboa Tennis Club President; singles player and league veteran Beatriz Vega; Sherr Aquino, a full-time working mother of three; Maria Ward, who two years ago was on a Coronado team that went to Nationals; Mariles Valencia, a pediatrician who is a league veteran of 15 years and also played on a Nationals team with Ward. Jennifer Kries lives in Menifee in the Inland Empire and travels the farthest to compete. Other players on the team include: Carolyn Winn, Cate Thero and Joan Yngson.
Hagler will spend time this weekend and next week practicing with her team before they depart for Vegas. “We are going all out,” she said. “We’ve gotten this far. I think at this point we feel we have a chance to win it all.”
Steve Pratt’s columns post every Thursday at southerncaliforniatennis.org.