Renton resident, adult tennis squad takes second at national championship

Mixed doubles squad travels to Florida for tourney.

Tennis captain Kitty Hubbard said that “all the stars need to align” for her team to garner success.

Skills, doubles combinations, players’ motivation and personalities are all factors that can put a team on the winning course.

The dozen-member Kirkland-based mixed doubles squad — which plays and practices at the Eastside Tennis Center — won the local league title and advanced through playoffs and sectionals to compete at USTA League Mixed 40 & Over 6.0 National Championships in Orlando, Florida.

Representing the USTA Pacific Northwest Section, the locals notched second in the national tournament, which was held Nov. 16-18. Hubbard’s team was the only Pacific Northwest unit to reach the finals in the different divisions.

Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, beat Kirkland, 3-0, in the championship match following the locals’ 2-1 semifinal victory over Knoxville, Tennessee.

“We just wanted to do the best we can for the experience. Second is amazing,” said Hubbard, noting that the players put in tons of practice to help the team reach nationals — and the final match.

Along with Hubbard, who is from Bellevue, the team features players from all over the Eastside and beyond. Kirkland residents are Pat Tuton, Shawn Thornsberry and Shu Shen; Zheng Mu and Zhe Li also represent Bellevue; Bothell netters are Rajesh Singh, Calvin Vu and Jeetu Thakur; Tracy Qi hails from Sammamish; Michele Lalime calls Snoqualmie home; and Daniel Chua is from Renton.

Hubbard noted that a lot of the players are in their 40s and have families with kids and jobs, so they made sacrifices to participate with the team. The youngest player is Li at 40 and the oldest is 83-year-old Tuton, who played soccer into her mid-60s.

During league play, the team went 8-0 overall and didn’t lose once on the three courts, so essentially it snagged a 24-0 record.

At nationals, Kirkland went 3-1 in the prelims, and was seeded fourth for the semifinals with three 4-0 squads.

“I think everyone was really in awe,” Hubbard said about her team taking second after being together since May.

Her goals were: “Everyone support the team, everyone have an opportunity to play and to make the final.”

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Front, left to right: Michele Lalime, Pat Tuton, Kitty Hubbard, Zhe Li, Shawn Thornsberry, Tracy Qi and Calvin Vu; back, left to right: Zheng Mu, Shu Shen, Daniel Chua, Rajesh Singh and Jeetu Thakur. The team designed its own gold logo, complete with the Space Needle, Mount Rainier, the Columbia Center and Smith Tower. Courtesy photo
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