Have you ever been lucky enough to make it all the way to the USTA National Championships? It’s not easy!

Our friend, Aileen, was lucky enough to be on a very strong team that made it all the way to the NTRP 4.0 National Tournament.

Aileen took up tennis as an adult (starting at 2.5) and fell in love with the sport. She has played on over 100 USTA teams but this was her first experience at the National Championships. Listen to her story now!

A Transcript of Our Conversation with Aileen:

Here’s a complete transcript of our conversation:

Carolyn: 0:07
Hi, this is Carolyn and I’m here with Erin and we really appreciate Aileen being here to discuss her 18 plus national championship experience. Just to brag a little bit on Aileen she is 53 years old. She started as a 2.5 over 10 years ago, had never played before and was able to make it to the 4.0 18 plus national championship, which is amazing.

Aileen: 0:31
Thanks, it was kind of a lifetime opportunity.

Erin: 0:35

Aileen: 0:36
I don’t know if this will ever ever happen again. So you got to go.

Carolyn: 0:39
That’s right. That’s right, okay, so start off and tell us about your regular season experience.

Aileen: 0:44
It was fun we went undefeated in our season as well as the playoffs to advance. But we won a lot of our matches three, two, so they weren’t even. It wasn’t like we were killing everybody at all. I mean, a lot of the matches were tight.

Erin: 1:01
So after your regular season you went on to. So we’re the three of us we’re sitting in. What should we call this second serve headquarters?

Carolyn: 1:10
Yes, Erin.

Erin: 1:11
In my office. So after your regular season you went on to what we call states. Some people, what other people call it Caroline State, just state, just state State, so in North Carolina. So tell us about the state’s experience in North Carolina.

Aileen: 1:27
States, states was good. I mean, we really were just going to have fun. We weren’t thinking that we would be ringers there or anything like that. We went. Actually I had a new partner for states. I played one match that wasn’t a real competitive match with her, and so it states. We were still trying to figure each other out. We did really well together. Our temperaments on the court really were good, so we just kind of took one match at a time. Funny enough, a couple of our really really strong players on our team were not able to go with us to states because in another area they had a different team that actually they captained. So they kind of had to take the team that advanced that they actually captained. So we were missing them. But then we saw them again in semifinals and our team won. But those two gals that played on the other team were able to join us not only for our celebration of winning states but also on the advancement to sectionals as well as nationals.

Erin: 2:30
So pretty impressive that they were there with two teams and then you guys ended up playing them in semifinal.

Aileen: 2:39
Is that correct?

Erin: 2:40
In semifinals, and then you beat their team, but then they celebrated with you guys and moved on Exactly they all.

Aileen: 2:46
They came to the final match and things like that. Once we won and yeah, so they were, it was all great, it was all good.

Erin: 2:56
So after states and I remember actually watching you guys I went to states just to promote the podcast but it was so hot. I remember and I remember watching you and Christine, your partner, during one of those matches and then your singles players, like they were just really really good matches. But so after states, I can’t remember what the timeline is, how much time is in between and what was the conversation about going to sectionals. What was the plan to get there?

Aileen: 3:22
Well, we were all kind of surprised. We knew we had the potential to go. It’s worth noting that we had a couple of ringers on the team that, just because they were so good, they were cleaning up in the local leagues, and one of them who happened to be a singles player that we could just totally count on for a singles win, no matter what.

Carolyn: 3:44
And not a self-right or an appeal. Not a self-right. She started from the get-go.

Aileen: 3:50
Actually she was a new bump to 4-0 that season and but she was phenomenal and she was not able to go to semi-finals or finals with us at states. So at that point we’re like, hey, just Do what you can, you know, just have fun. We made it this far, this is amazing. Then we wanted, we were like whoa, now what we go to, sectionals and the same thing are that ringer singles player was not able to go, unfortunately, and so but our captain was like, hey, we made it this far. This is amazing, I’m just going have fun. There’s no expectations.

Aileen: 4:27
She’s very, very honest with who’s gonna play, who’s not gonna play. Are we in it? She would ask our opinions. Are we in it to win it or are we in it, you know, to make sure everybody gets three matches or whatever it is. For the most part everybody was very honest because it was so hot at sectionals we were in Rome, georgia, and, and I think it was July, maybe August, yeah, I don’t know and some people, you know, just don’t deal with the heat very well and you know, and they’re very honest. It’s like I can play in the morning but in the afternoon I don’t think I’m worth much. You know that Communication I think was very valuable for our captain as well as some of the people playing singles.

Aileen: 5:12
It’s like I got one singles match in me, but double and up I’m not sure. It depends how the first one goes, and our captain was great with navigating all of that, seeing how people felt. I’m trying new things as sectionals. For instance, my partner. I woke up not feeling great and so she pulled out literally moments before we were turning in the lineup card in the morning, because she’s like I don’t know I could throw up on the court for all I know and so I went in. I think it was semifinals. Yeah, it was semifinals. I went in with a partner I’d never been on a court with before, so we did a set to figure that one out.

Erin: 5:50
But but I guess sometimes that helps, though almost not having an expectation, right? I mean, we’ve talked to people Carolyn, who have gone to nationals, who had a clear plan. This is exactly what’s gonna happen, these are the partnerships, these are the matches you’re playing, and Carolyn and I were like that’s how you win nationals. But it seems like just even getting to nationals Sometimes it’s just serendipity, right? Yes, you’re like we’re not expected to win, we’re here to have fun. We might play with a new partner We’ve never played with before. Like you know, anything is gravy, and then that just sort of worked for your team going forward.

Aileen: 6:26
Yeah, and that was definitely the message from our captain to us. I mean, she was I can’t say enough nice things about her. I mean she really did a great job with putting everything together, doing the best and it’s hard you want to make everybody happy and you know for the most part everybody was good with. Just do what’s right for the team.

Erin: 6:46
Yeah, so what happens after? Okay, so tell us about sectionals. So you end up winning sectionals? Obviously, yeah, this episode is about you going on to nationals. So how did sectionals come down? I can’t remember.

Aileen: 6:59
Yeah, so sectionals, it’s a Pooled round, a random round, robin, I guess they call it, and so you play for well. First of all, it’s worth noting that we are the southern section, so it’s the largest section, and we have nine states that send their state winners to the tournament, and so you can’t play all nine teams. Actually, I think only eight went this year I can’t remember what state wasn’t able to join us, but and we played four different teams and the first one, unfortunately, that was my. Well, we lost that one. Pretty good, but it was. But we didn’t want to just say it because it was short sets.

Aileen: 7:41
And it ran the night before and it was like two, four. Yep, like two, four games. Yeah, no, just two.

Erin: 7:48
Four game sets Two sets to four games To four games. We’ve done episodes on this and we know how much that sucks.

Carolyn: 7:54
It really does. Was there ad? I do not remember.

Erin: 7:58
Yeah, I honestly don’t remember. I don’t think I actually you.

Aileen: 8:01
I was sitting at dinner after that mess and somebody one of my teammates said to me she’s like oh, they were talking about somebody. And they’re like they just, oh, their sister was there for like three, oh, I think. And they’re like yeah, she just didn’t know how to play short sets. And I’m like wait what? How do you play short sets?

Aileen: 8:22
Because, clearly, we did not know how to play short sets, yeah, and she said, well it’s, it’s more of a like a tie break, you know, consistency effort instead of. You know, I’m like I played it like a time match, yes, and so it was like every and they they were very soft balls. There were no pace on them. It was like the people that were playing were very consistent and they just kind of pushed the ball back. So every ball was like this huge thing is I’m going to finish it, you know coming in like crazy people, Great, and we were crazy people and we just missed it long and I mean, oh, it was with explanation points, but it was a hundred percent our errors Right.

Aileen: 9:05
And there just wasn’t any time to make it up, so I can’t remember what our four one. They recorded it as six two, six two. But yeah but it was a short set with four. I was probably four one, four one Maybe. I don’t know what it was. I’ve played.

Erin: 9:22
I’ve tried to block the mouth. It was sad.

Aileen: 9:26
But anyway, that was our first match. But everybody else or some people won, I don’t remember. So you won as a team, we won as a team, you lost your four matches, but you won the rest. Yeah, and then we went to semi finals and, worth noting, of the four teams that advanced to semi finals from the random round Robin, we had already played two of them. Yeah, and then in the finals we ended up meeting a team that we had already played.

Erin: 9:51
So we knew what. We beat them the first time around Yep, we beat because we won everything so far.

Aileen: 9:56
So yeah, so we had so no then we knew what we’re seeing, but it’s it’s worth noting that it was kind of a surprise. I think I knew this. But we have roster limitations. Not everybody has roster limitations. So some teams, when it’s 100 degrees outside and like a huge, huge amount of activity, they’re bringing two or three full sets of people that can play each match where we had 10. We had 10 people for eight positions, so only two people set each match and we tried to rest people as we could. But that’s that’s tough it is. If you had a larger roster, it makes it a lot easier that you can throw in other people.

Carolyn: 10:42
And when you say we have roster limitations, you mean North Carolina.

Aileen: 10:46
I think it’s.

Carolyn: 10:46
North Carolina Right.

Aileen: 10:47

Carolyn: 10:47
Whereas other teams in the section or other states in the section do not have roster limitations that we have. Yeah, it kind of puts us at a disadvantage, just like what you said.

Aileen: 10:56
Yeah, huge. But on the other hand, can you imagine as a captain trying to get everybody playtime if you only have eight matches for a season and then you have 20 some people on your roster? Yeah, I’m like, oh my goodness, yeah, that’s a whole nother ball game. But yeah, some are unlimited. Some people have unlimited rosters. It’s just crazy.

Erin: 11:19
That’s what we love about doing. This, too, is each section is so different and each state is so different. Everybody has their own rules, but then you get to these sectionals and then this national situation. You’re facing completely different ballgame sometimes.

Carolyn: 11:35
so Okay, so you won sectionals. That’s so exciting. What happens after sectionals? Because I’ve never made it to national Right.

Aileen: 11:44
Yeah, well, kind of the funny thing. Once we won sectionals and we’re all still kind of shaking like I can’t believe it. I mean, everybody’s crying. We had no idea it was so hot and it was so hot and they give you money. We’re like what you know? We get money. But yeah, right there, usta Southern gave us $500 for the team to use toward travel expenses, because they definitely want us to go and represent. And then after that we get home and shortly thereafter our captain gets an email from USTA North Carolina saying we have $675 for you, and so they’re giving us money. We’re like sweet. And then our local league even said they’ll have money for us, but they held their check. They said until after nationals. In effect, they did give us to us right before nationals, but they needed to make sure they only had so much money, I think, in a pot and they needed to see all the teams that advance how they divvy it up Right. And so they still had combo to go.

Erin: 12:46
So it wasn’t based on your.

Aileen: 12:49
How come? How come Ormans? Yeah, no, no. If you do well at nationals, you get no, yeah, yeah. And so they ended up sending us a check for $675.

Carolyn: 12:58
Also, so you’re getting paid to play tennis.

Erin: 13:01
Exactly, we’ve always said don’t take adult rec tennis too seriously because it’s not like we’re getting paid. But now that goes out the window. But only if you make it to nationals. So Right.

Aileen: 13:13
And, yeah, it worked out to about $142 each. Yeah, and our captain just vimod us all of our portion. Nice yeah.

Carolyn: 13:20
Thanks to Aline for coming on the podcast. We have one more episode where Aline discusses the research she did on the people that got bombed and also the unfortunate thing that happened to Aline on the very first game of the very first match at the national championships. We hope you check out our website, which is thatcanservedpodcastcom. Thanks so much for listening and hope to see you on the courts soon.

Past Episodes with Aileen:

Aileen has been generous with her time (and tennis stories) and has been a guest several times. Here are some other episodes she’s joined us on: