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Mt. Park team earns national berth

by: Submitted photo, Members of Mt. Park’s 3.5 women’s tennis team pose for a team photo after winning sectionals last week. Team members include Linda Thorsen, Penny Dam, Corinne Mitchell, Joanne Criscione, Gigi Chadwick, Michele Smith, Kathleen Autrey, Nancy Garlock, Diana Miller, Lynn Sosa, Cheryl Hansen, Kristin Campbell, Sally Ward, Erin Prince and Lorie Yavorsky.

After winning their local playoffs and earning a spot at sectionals, the 3.5 women's team from Mountain Park Racquet Club began their quest to advance to the USTA National Championships, which will be held in Tucson, Ariz., Oct. 6-8.

In a round-robin format, they faced a tough and steady team from Anchorage, Alaska in their first round at Sunset Athletic Club. But all three doubles teams (which included Corinne Mitchell, Diana Miller, Linda Thorsen, Joanne Criscione, Lorie Yavorsky and Michele Smith) and both singles players (Penny Dam and Nancy Garlock) finished them off in straight sets.

In a must-win second-round match played at West Hills Racquet Club against a formidable team from Tacoma, Dam, at first singles, fought back from a 1-6 loss in the first set to win the match in a third-set tiebreaker. Mitchell and Miller had a similar situation at second doubles, losing the first set in a tiebreaker, but rallying to win the second set, and ultimately the third-set tiebreaker 10-8. With losses at second singles and first doubles, the team of Crisione and Thorsen took the first set in a tiebreaker and dug deep to win the second set to secure a spot in the sectional final.

The final took place at Tualatin Hills Tennis Center. The Mountain Park team faced its toughest opponent, Mercer Island. At first doubles, Criscione and Thorsen were surprised at the quick starting Mercer Island team and found themselves down and eventually out of the first set 1-6. After finding their rhythm, they cruised to a 6-2 win in the second set and took the tiebreaker in a nail-biting 11-9 win.

Dam, meanwhile, fought gracefully at first singles to win in straight sets 6-3, 6-2. Kathleen Autrey and Smith had their hands full at second doubles, but couldn't stop the momentum of the Mercer Island team, losing 6-3, 7-5. Miller and Mitchell were broken toward the end of the first set and lost 4-6 at third doubles, but they rallied back to win the second set 6-3. Just when it appeared that Mountain Park would take the win, Mercer Island roared back from 1-7 down to win the tiebreaker 10-8.

The last match on the court would decide which team would go to nationals and who would just go home. Garlock, just married on Saturday, came back early from her honeymoon to play second singles in the final. With the first set safely tucked away, Garlock took control of the second set and put her opponent away 6-4, 6-3.

Cheers went up as the Mountain Park team raced down to congratulate Garlock and celebrate winning USTA Sectionals. Mitchell's team is now busy looking for sponsors for their trip to Tucson in October.