Monday, May 7, 2012

Crunch Tine in Ultimate Tennis League Playoffs

If you love playing with something on the line, playing new people, encountering different styles of play, being able to do all of the above on your own time, AND superb customer service (thanks Solvi!), then I can’t think of any reason you wouldn’t thoroughly enjoy playing the Ultimate Tennis League (UTL), formerly known as K-Swiss.

Over the past five years I have played seven seasons, and haven’t played more only because of work-induced energy deficits and injuries. My most recent UTL foray, still ongoing as I write, has been no less fulfilling than any of the others. 

Jarrod Goare
Today I play my Semifinal against Jarrod Goare, the top point earner in our Division of the 5.5 League, playing out of Bell Tower Park. Jarrod delivered my lone defeat of the regular season, so I’ll have to bring some more game this time around if I’m to move on to the Finals at the Longwood Athletic Club in Sarasota this weekend. 

Women’s 3.5 League
Renee Bailin
In examining the playoff draws of the various divisions, it’s apparent that there are quite a few players in our area who like to compete. Among my favorites (ya think maybe because we work together?) is Renee Bailin, who made her UTL debut this season, and has made it to the Women’s 3.5 Semifinals.

Actually she’s one of my favorites because she loves the game and competition like I do, and has “true grit!” To make it to the semis, Renee had to come back from 1-5 down in the third set to win 6-3, 4-6, 7-6. In her semifinal match this Thursday, Renee will be facing another local, Cynthia Dietz, who is playing out of Paseo. 

Cynthia Dietz
Cynthia has only dropped one set in the eight matches she has played this season, so Renee has her work cut out for her. I have more faith in her getting to the Final than my getting there though!

Women’s 3.0 League
Julia Owens
The Women’s 3.0 Division Playoffs is dominated by locals, with all four semifinalists calling the Greater Fort Myers area home. In one semi, Virginia Forget of Estero, who upset the No.1 Seed in the Quarters, will take on fourth-seed Julia Owens of Cape Coral. 

In the other, No.3 Seed Jenny Macdermott of Fort Myers Racquet Club (FMRC) will take on seventh-seeded Joy Dickey, also of FMRC, who downed No.2 Seed Joan Weder in the Quarters.

Women’s 4.0 League
Mary Beth Brunner
In the Women’s 4.0, Top Seed Mary Beth Brunner of Gateway Golf and Country Club (GGCC) will face No.4 Seed Sandy Mooney of Osprey in one Semifinal. Both ladies are UTL vets (11 and 6 seasons respectively) and both are tough competitors with only one loss each this season.

In the Quarters, Mooney posted a straight-set victory over the very game Laura DeLucca, who beat Brunner in straight sets during the regular season. However, Bruner took down Jacqueline Moore of Port Charlotte in a straight-set quarterfinal match, and Mooney had to go three to beat Moore in the regular season. Ought to be a fun match!

Lisa Gottesman
In the other Semi, No.10 Seed Lisa Gottesman, also of GGCC, matches up with No.6 Susan Adrian of Anna Maria. Both upset higher seeds to reach the Semis, and both had to battle through adversity to get there. Gottesman went 7-6, 2-6, 6-0 in her Round of 16 match, then won 7-6, 6-2 over the No.2 Seed, Joanne Wuelfing of Sarasota, in the Quarters. Adrian had to overcome a dropped first set against No.3 Seed Vicky Boyd of Fort Myers in the Quarters, taking the final two sets, 6-4, 6-3. There could be two Gateway sisters fighting for the Championship in this one.

Men’s 2.5 League
In a rematch of one played in the regular season, Timothy Kenaga of Jim Jeffers Park in Cape Coral, will face Alberto del Valle of Three Oaks Park in Fort Myers. Kenaga should be confident coming in, having posted a straight-set victory over del Valle the first time around.

Men’s 3.0 League
Tim Chakos
Two locals have a chance to reach the final of this division, and another rematch is the story. No.1 Seed Monroe Smith of Paseo will take on No. 4 Seed Jack Karkis, also of Paseo. Smith handed Karkis a straight-set loss (6-2, 6-4) in Week 3 of the regular season, so Karkis will be looking for redemption.

Mike Walley
Smith overcame a stiff challenge in the Quarters, losing the first set 4-6, and edging Tim Chakos of Bradenton 7-6, 7-6 in the final two sets. Karkis took his Quarterfinal match 6-2, 6-3 over Michael Walley of Bradenton.

Men's 3.5 League
The Men’s 3.5 Division is one of the toughest to work one’s way through, and working his way through to the Playoff Draw is exactly what No.16 Seed Tim Hamilton of FMRC has done to reach the Semis. In both the Round of 16 and the Quarters, Hamilton dropped the first set, only to come back and win the match. 

In the Quarters against Jeff Stevenson, also of FMRC, Hamilton lost the first set 4-6, before finishing off Stevenson 6-0, 6-0. Hamilton will have to get past fourth-seeded Raul Elizalde of Sarasota to reach the Final.
Another local, fifth-seeded Steve Gaczkowski of Rookery Pointe in Estero reached the Quarters, but fell 4-6, 3-6, to Elizalde. If Hamilton makes it to the Final he will play either Mark Smith of Sarasota or Dale Abbott of Bradenton.

Men's 4.0 League
Gary Rodgers
Only local, Gary Rodgers of Heritage Palms Golf and Country Club (HPGCC), made the Quarters of the 4.0 Men, and he defaulted his match. Jaime Weisinger of Fort Myers was seeded fourth after a strong regular season, but ran into ringer Jason Liu in the Round of 16 and lost in straights.

Men's 4.5 League
Carrying the local banner in the Men’s 4.5s is No.1 Seed Richard Wood of HPGCC, who has posted an impressive UTL record over four seasons. Since 2010, in 3.5 through 4.5 divisions, Wood’s match record stands at 26-1, that one loss a three-setter, coming in the regular season last summer. Wood went on to win the 4.0 Championship last summer in a three-setter as well.

Moved up to 4.5 for the first time this past Spring Season, Wood went 7-0 in the regular season and took out 20-season, UTL veteran Greg Natale out of Plantation Country Club, 6-4, 7-6 in the Semis of the Playoffs. In the Final Wood will face No.2 Seed David Lloyd of Venice, who also went undefeated this season. Wood is playing his fifth UTL season, all at the 4.5 level. This out to be a good one to watch!

Men's 5.0 League
Second-seeded Miguel Scheel, last summer’s UTL 4.5 Division Finalist, playing out of Bella Terra in Estero, went undefeated and is in the Semis of the Men’s 5.0. Showing his mental toughness, Scheel survived three three-setters in the regular season, winning the third set of each by the score of 6-4.

Scheel will play No.3 Seed Matthew Roszkowski, playing out of Rutenberg Park in Fort Myers, who is in his second overall UTL season. This is a rematch from the regular season, where in Week 6, Roszkowski lost 6-7, 3-6 to Scheel. This promises to be another competitive match. The winner will play either Tom Buzas or Mike Gough of Sarasota.

Last Words
Well it's about time to start getting ready for my watch tonight. Soon I'll know whether I'll be heading north this weekend, and whether I'll be eligible to play again in the upcoming Summer Season. You see, League Champions and Finalists are obliged to move up, and there is no "up" in our area. Win today and I'm out for certain. Lose and maybe I can play again. I'll fill you in after the weekend. 

Until then, there are 18 days left to sign up for the Summer Singles Season, 32 days for the the Summer Mixed, and 60 days for the Doubles. Put your game to the Ultimate test and get on board the UTL train. Game, set, match...T. A.

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