Medals galore for SoCal: Victories at the Men's and Women's Team Intersectional Championships - USTA Southern California




Men's 55 Intersectionals



DECEMBER 11, 2023

Men's 55 Intersectionals

The SoCal Men’s 55 Intersectionaols team that won gold in Georgia, captained by Claremont Mudd-Scripps Head Coach Paul Settles.


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Facing off against premier talent across the nation, Southern California’s finest players were on full display at the 2023 Level 2 Men and Women’s Intersectional Team Championships. Seven teams across six different age divisions represented the section, with more than half of the teams earning Gold. The women traveled to Arizona and battled it out at the Phoenix Tennis Center between November 6-12, while the men made the journey to Georgia, showcasing their abilities at the Cooper Creek Tennis Center from November 9-12.

MENS’ 55s (GOLD) – The sole Mens’ team that was sent to Georgia, the 55s had one of the most decorated lineups to compete in Intersectionals, and it showed. Captained by the current Claremont Mudd-Scripps head coach Paul Settles, the roster was constructed to bring home nothing less than Gold. Settles worked hard to form his team, and in doing so brought together a squad of highly decorated tennis professionals in the form of Peter Smith, Peter Gertmenian, Timothy Pawsat, Desmond McBride and Elson De Cantuaria. The six members of the group brought experience as former collegiate and professional players, college head coaches and current tournament directors at some of the premier facilities in Southern California. Before even stepping foot on the court beside his teammates, De Cantuaria knew that the opportunity was too good to pass up. “When Paul contacted me and told me the names of the prospective players, there was NO WAY I would refuse the invitation.”

The lone undefeated team of its age division, Mens’ 55 captured Gold, compiling a record of 2-0 over the weekend. Initially scheduled to compete in four matches, weather had other plans, as rain put a stoppage to the groups’ matches against the Midwest and Southern sections. In the two completed matches against New England and Florida, the squad was dominant. With final scores of 5-0 in both contests, the team did not lose a set, on top of only dropping an astonishing five sets of their total thirty-two played in. Highlighting the squad, Settles did not lose a match, while Pawsat, Gertmenian and McBride did not drop a set all tournament. 

Speaking on their victory, all members of the team were ecstatic following the matches. “It was great to win, but I felt more relief than anything,” stated McBride. “It was a long weekend of tennis in very poor weather,” added Smith. “To do it in those conditions on a surface that none of us are accustomed to playing on feels great.”

The group discussed what it meant to represent SoCal, their mindset entering play and what they enjoyed most about this experience. “The team aspect was great. As a college coach it was fun to be on the playing side,” Settles mentioned. “All of us living together in a rental house provided some great hang time and laughter,” Gertmenian added. “While I didn’t know many of my teammates well prior to this competition, I feel like we built a bond through living, laughing, and competing together over the course of the event in Georgia. I am grateful that this group will always have that in common.” “I was fortunate enough to represent SoCal in Junior Intersectionals and Maze Cup, so to be able to do so as a senior again was fantastic,” Pawsat shared.

WOMENS’ 35s (BRONZE) – An unseeded team entering the tournament, the Womens’ 35s turned heads in Phoenix, capturing Bronze amongst seven other teams. With a fresh face at the helm, the 35s were captained by Christine Lee. The Cal Baptist tennis alum, Lee brought together some of Southern California’s finest players to take on Intersectionals. Compiled of six former division one standouts, Lee was accompanied by Dianne Matias (USC), Carlota LeFon (Texas A&M), Lauren Perl-Lancaster (USD), Jonni Seymour (UCI), Cheryl Kindred (CSULB) and Kathryn Frick (UCSB).

In a grueling battle with multiple matches going three sets or needing a tiebreaker, the squad pulled out its first victory of the tournament, defeating New England by a score of 3-2. The ladies shined early in doubles play, as the duos of Matias and Seymour, and LeFon and Perl-Lancaster pulled off huge victories propelling the group to a win. Facing a tall task just a few days later in the form of top-seeded Southern, the group narrowly lost by a score of 3-2. With a record of 1-1 in the main draw, a battle against Southwest was set to determine who would walk away with the Bronze medal. After Southern California took two of three matches in singles play, Southwest won a crucial doubles match, forcing the medal to be decided in the final doubles match of the day. Southwest did not have an answer for LeFon and Perl-Lancaster, as the duo clinched Bronze for SoCal with a victory in straight sets, 6-2, 6-0.

Touching on the team’s accomplishments, Lee and Matias shared what it meant to compete amongst some of the best competition the USTA has to offer. “Representing Southern California at Intersectionals was especially rewarding. I really enjoyed my time as Captain for these women and I wouldn’t mind doing it again,” said Lee. “This was my first time competing in this event and it was so inspiring to see the different age divisions compete and still play at such a high level. I had a great experience playing on the same team with some of the players I grew up with in the juniors and also competing against some of them,” added Matias.

WOMENS’ 45s – Participating in Intersectionals in past years, first-year captain Farrah Northcott constructed her roster around former teammates and accomplished tennis players. Joining Northcott on the 45s and returning to play in Intersectionals once again were Trina Eggers, Erica Smalley, Quynh Le and Jen Beindorf. Rounding out the bunch was newcomer Sanem Ahearn, who would make her presence felt on the court. The combination of new leadership with veteran experience proved to be invaluable, as the group had a very successful weekend in a highly competitive bracket.

Facing off against Mid-Atlantic for their first match, the ladies came out the gates strong. Besting their opponents by a score of 4-1, the group displayed their endurance, as many of these matches turned out to be grueling in length. Incredible tennis was of no shortage, as Le pulled off a come from behind win in singles and the duos of Le and Northcott, and Eggers and Beindorf claimed pivotal doubles victories in three sets. Riding high off this win, the group faced their toughest test of the tournament in their next match against Texas. The ultimate champions, Texas would pull out the victory by a score of 4-1. Ahearn highlighted the bunch, claiming the sole victory in singles. After starting out 1-1, victories were more important than ever in order to make a run, and the group did just that. In two closely contested matches against New England and Texas, SoCal found its groove, winning back to back with both scores ending 3-2. Smalley captured her first victory of the weekend in doubles alongside Eggers, and Ahearn kept her hot streak rolling, completing the tournament without losing a match in singles play. When all was said and done, the team left Phoenix placing 5th out of 10 teams.

While serving for the first time as a captain, Farrah Northcott is a veteran at Intersectionals. She shared what returning meant to her and what made the event so memorable. “This is my third year participating and it means so much to me. It is one of my favorite tournaments because of the team format,” Northcott added. “Competing alongside great players from across the country, the team spirit, and the friendships and community that is created is so special.”

WOMENS’ 55s (GOLD) – As the No. 2 seed heading into play, expectations were high for the Womens’ 55s. Under the leadership of captain Rainy Miller, the group was eager to de-throne last year’s champion, Mid-Atlantic, and take down the perennial No. 1 seeded Southern. Returning to the Intersectionals team were Kathryn Settles and Kathy Archibald, while newcomers Debbie Spence-Nasim, Jenny Keller and Eleanor Hammargren solidified the bunch.

In a pool of 11 teams, SoCal faced off against Pacific Northwest in the first round, cruising to a 5-0 victory without dropping a set. It would then be an all-California showdown in the semis, as Northern California looked to put a quick halt to SoCal’s hopes and take home bragging rights. Spence-Nasim and Settles each claimed singles victories in straight sets, propelling the squad to an early lead. After a heartbreaking loss in the third singles match, the group bounced back, with Spence-Nasim and Keller claiming a doubles victory in straight sets. With this victory, the championship match was set, and the two favorites entering play would meet. SoCal came into the match looking to claim victories in two consecutive years over Southern, as the two teams battled it out just a year ago at Intersectionals. Both teams were extremely familiar with one another., with SoCal returning three members of its squad and Southern returning four. Playing for Gold this time around, and once again the underdog, SoCal knew how much was at stake. Setting the tone early, Spence-Nasim and Settles rolled through their singles matches, winning in straight sets. Up 2-1 after a singles loss, it would be a repeat of the match against Northern California, as Spence-Nasim and Keller pulled through in doubles play, clinching the Gold for the women. Throughout the entire tournament, Spence-Nasim and Settles did not drop a set in singles while Keller did not drop a set in doubles.

Capturing Gold was significant to all members of the team, but had special meaning to captain Rainy Miller. “This Gold meant a lot to me personally. I captained a few 45 age divisions with limited success,” she stated. “For the 55 division, we have come close by winning the Silver Medal each of the last 2 years, but to break through and win the Gold was particularly pleasing.”

Members of the team explained what it meant to compete for something bigger than themselves and touched on their feelings following the win. “Victories with a team are much more special, especially being able to share in that experience for years to come,” said Keller. “It felt great to compete against the best of players from all sections and come up with the victory,” added Nasim. “This win was a true team effort. This is the second SoCal Intersectionals team that I’ve been on that has won the Gold, but the first where I played in every match. So personally, this win was really special.” shared Settles

WOMENS’ 65s (BRONZE) – Entering the tournament, the Womens’ 65s earned the No.1 seed, and for good reason. Returning as captain, Tina Karwasky formed an extremely competitive squad consisting of former and first-time players at Intersectionals. Joining Karwasky again was Elizabeth Kuhle and this years’ Section Captain Colleen Ferrell, who made up the three singles lines for the bunch just a year ago. New to 65s Intersectionals, Ginny Beneke, Karen Haas, Una Davis and Julie David looked to make an impact early, and that they did, winning all of their first round matches.

Taking on a talented Florida team, SoCal showed why they were the top-seed, claiming victory by a score of 4-1. Kuhle and Beneke picked up singles victories in straight sets, while the newly formed doubles teams of Davis and Haas, and Ferrell and David were also victorious in straight sets. The duo of Ferrell and David put an exclamation on the victory, not losing a game all match. Following a bye in the next round, SoCal took on No. 3 seeded Southern. In a highly competitive battle, all five matches would go the distance, each going all three sets with some including multiple tiebreakers. SoCal fought until the very end, but it was to no avail as the eventual winners of the tournament, Southern, would come out on top by a score of 5-0. Following the loss, the final match of the tournament for the ladies was set, as they took on Midwest to see who would claim Bronze. With almost identical scores to their match against Florida, SoCal claimed victory by a final score of 4-1 and captured the Bronze medal.

While the squad had its sights set on Gold, they were very pleased with their accomplishments and displayed admiration for the opportunity to compete. “The tournament was a great experience and I’m grateful for all the SCTA does for me,” said Kuhle. “What I enjoyed the most was that we had a great team and got along exceptionally well.” “I am very proud of the Bronze,” stated Beneke. “Every person on the team fought hard for every match and played incredible tennis.

WOMENS’ 75s (GOLD) – With possibly the most impressive run by a team in any age level at this year’s Intersectionals, the Womens’ 75s left no doubt that they should be crowned champions. Following a year in which they went undefeated, the ladies somehow managed to blow their performance out of the water this year. Captained by veteran Andi Polisky, five of the six members of last year’s championship squad returned, setting the group as the No. 1 seed. Competing again under Polisky were Judy Louie, Kia Farzaneh, Carol Gay and Liane Bryson, with newly added Kathleen Bennett finalizing the group.

En route to claiming Gold, the SoCal team went undefeated, and in doing so, did not lose a single set the entire tournament. In their first match of the tournament, SoCal took down Texas by a score of 4-0. Not dropping a game in singles play, Gay claimed victory in singles while the pair of Bryson and Bennett pulled out the win in doubles. SoCal kept its momentum going in the next match, defeating Midwest by a score of 4-0 and setting them up for a finale against Mid-Atlantic. Once again, SoCal were victorious by a score of 4-0. In singles play, Bryson only conceded one game while Bryson and Bennett did the same in doubles play. Dropping only 34 games the entire tournament while every other team lost upwards of 100, it was evident that SoCal was the best team there. This victory solidified Gold for the SoCal Women’s 75s in three consecutive years.

Speaking on the event, Polisky touched on the achievements of her team while crediting the immense talent that Intersectionals has to offer. “When I saw the high quality of players in the 75 age division this year, I must admit I was a bit worried,” Andi stated. “I knew we had a solid team, but the competition was going to be tough. Never did I think we would finish 12-0. The team really stepped up and played beautifully. I was proud to be a part of a very special week and truly blessed to spend time with so many old and longtime friends.”

WOMENS’ 80s (GOLD) – After not competing the previous year, first-year captain Sheila Palmer knew she had a tough task in bringing home the Gold. Joining Palmer were teammates Judy Janc, Charleen Hillebrand and Cathie Anderson Separating the six teams into two equal groups, a round robin format would be the decider for which two teams would advance to the final.

In the squad’s first match, they took down the Middle States by a score of 2-1. Hillebrand captured a victory in singles while her and Anderson were dominant in doubles, securing the win. In the next round matchup against New England, the ladies made a statement, earning the win by a score of 3-0. Hillenbrand was victorious in both singles and doubles again alongside Anderson, while Palmer and Janc picked up their first win of the tournament in doubles play. Going undefeated in both of their brackets, a California team was destined to come away with the Gold, as SoCal took on NorCal in the championship. In a match that came down to the wire, SoCal emerged victorious by a score of 2-1. Highlighted by Hillenbrand and Anderson winning all of their matches, SoCal secured its third Gold medal of Intersectionals.

Discussing Intersectionals, Palmer spoke on the joys of the event and what taking Gold meant to her. “[I loved] seeing old friends and hanging with the other teams,” Sheila stated. “The banquet was also great with music and dancing. A good time was had by all, and winning the Gold was icing on the cake!”

SECTION CAPTAIN COLLEEN FERRELL – The section captain of all six women’s teams, Colleen Ferrell played an integral role in the success of the section. Preparing for the week-long event, Ferrell’s responsibilities were vast, ranging from organizing the Southern California teams to working alongside the Intersectional Committee throughout the tournament.

“As the Section Captain for all SoCal teams, I was incredibly proud of winning medals in five of six age divisions,” Ferrell shared. “Even the 45s team that took 5th out of 10 teams battled all the way to the end. Specifically on the 65s team, we ended up losing in the semi’s to the eventual winner, yet all five lines went three sets. Having to rally back the next day to win the Bronze was definitely satisfying for the entire team.”

Not only were Colleen’s efforts recognized as her teams found success, but she was individually acknowledged, taking home the prestigious Margaret Russo Sportswoman Award. Presented annually, this achievement is given to the female player who has displayed outstanding sportsmanship both on and off the court throughout the year. 

“Winning the Margaret Russo Award for sportsmanship was unexpected and a tremendous honor,” Ferrell said. “Playing fair, respecting my opponent and giving 110% each time I am on the court has been part of my personal creed since competing as a child against my older brothers. To be recognized for these attributes is a personal highlight of my tennis career.”

Teammates of Ferrell’s on the Womens’ 65s team, Elizabeth Kuhle and Ginny Beneke could not be happier for Colleen’s accomplishment.

“Colleen was so deserving of winning the sportsmanship award. She is selfless in her efforts to advance tennis,” mentioned Kuhle. “Colleen’s award was so deserved! She gives so much to tennis, her club, and to Southern California tennis. She is also just a great person all around. [This award] couldn’t have gone to a better person,” Beneke stated.


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