South/East/West North Xtra: Tournament in Butler a unique experience
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It's about as close to "all-star" team tennis as you can get for young players in the area ... and it's televised.
"It's really cool," Whitney Snyder said. "Just a neat, unique event."
The 17th annual West Penn Interclub Junior Mixed Doubles Team Championship is scheduled for today at the Butler Country Club, where Snyder is the tennis pro. The alternate location in case of inclement weather is Lakevue Racquet Club in Middlesex Township.
Teams consisting of four players -- a boy and girl each in the 18-and-under ("Varsity") and 12-and-under ("Junior Varsity") divisions -- will play in round-robin format.
"Right in the middle of the summer, it's kind of like an all-star game," Snyder said. "Basically, this is for all the different programs, from country clubs to swim clubs, racquet clubs, township teams, inner-city youth tennis organizations, YMCAs ... it's a real melting pot.
"It's kind of like a WPIAL championship for kids' tennis. Boys playing with girls and vice versa, and the older kids cheering for younger kids and vice versa -- you usually don't have that."
Armstrong Cable will televise the tournament and show it on a delay basis next week to subscribers, many of whom live in Butler County.
"They do a really good job with it," Snyder said. "They'll zoom in and get a lot of interviews with different players and parents. It's a quick show, not a long, boring thing, just a half-hour highlight video, if you will, on air.
"It means a lot to me to see so many kids so ecstatic."
Snyder coaches the Sewickley Academy boys and girls teams that have dominated WPIAL Class AA in recent years. His players with the Panthers often speak in glowing terms of the team atmosphere at Sewickley that Snyder helps to foster.
Many of the top players at Sewickley Academy often get bogged down with the grind and travel associated with playing USTA singles tournaments and welcome the chance to play for a team.
The appeal of the Interclub Junior Mixed Doubles Team Championship is similar. And an added bonus is the rare opportunity to play mixed doubles.
"How this originally started was there was so much emphasis on Junior tennis and what your ranking was and this and that," Snyder said.
"I wanted to do something in the summer for kids who are in these summer programs having fun with each other on kind of a grassroots level. Bring together players from all different walks of life in this format instead of just an indoor racquet club team or just a country club.
"So I invited 30 different teams from all over Western Pennsylvania. I wanted to have every team's best boy and girl [in two age groups]."
Organizations that had entered teams in this year's tournament before the registration deadline Monday night are: the Butler Country Club, the Butler Junior Tennis Association, the Club Sport and Health in Monroeville, the Forest Hills Swim Club, the Mt. Lebanon Tennis Center, the Oxford Athletic Club in Pine, the Sewickley Area Tennis Association and the Edgeworth Club.
The Butler Junior Tennis Association is the defending champion. The team of A.J. May and Zoey McCafferty (18-and-under) and Rob Cella and Emma Brestensky (12-and-under) won titles.
First Published July 6, 2012 12:00 am