A county tennis team is doing its best to emulate the Minnesota Twins, the American League baseball champions, to produce its own versionof "worst to first."
The Bay Ladies, a team of 14 women ages 38-49 from Arnold and Severna Park, will become a part of history tomorrow morning, as they vie against 16 other sectional champions for the U.S. Tennis Association 3.0 level (beginning/intermediate) National Team Championships in Palm Springs, Calif.
The Ladies became the first women's team from the county to earn a trip to the USTA-sanctioned national tournament, as it finished first in August's Mid-Atlantic Regional, defeating Virginia finalists Richmond, Lynchburg, Northern Virginia and Shenandoah.
"Most of us have only been serious about the last two years or so," said team captain Marcia Wright.
"Let's just say that last year we didn't do well at all. We were just really beginners. We picked up some really good singles players this year, which really has made a big difference.
"This year has been a complete turn-around. People in the tennis community around here are really excited about this."
So is their coach.
"They have really improved their games (from last year)," said Coach Peg Machoian, an accomplished player who has faced legendarygrand-slam event winners Billie Jean King and Maria Bueno (Brazil) on the national 35-and over circuit. The Annapolis native took up tennis originally as a leisure activity before becoming hooked.
"I didn't start playing until I was an old lady," said Machoian, who declined to give her age. "I took a lot of lessons, persevered really hard at it, and I wound up liking it. And now I'm playing at the national level. I've been into sports all of my life, so I'm just a competitive person."
In the short span that Machoian has worked with the Bay
Ladies, she has seen marked improvements.
"Mentally, they've improved. Their footwork has gotten better, and their hand-eye coordination has gotten better," said Machoian, who is also an accomplished swimmer.
"There wasn't that much as far as strokes that you could change in the short amount of time, because they were always competing in matches."
Wright said, "Peg has done a great job with the team. We brought her on this year to give us some lessons, and after thefirst couple of weeks, we just kept her. She's a real good motivator, and we just enjoy her company."
The first-year mentor stressed that the mental aspect was of utmost importance for her team, especially before the sectionals.
"Most of the stuff they worked on beforethey went to Virginia Beach was mental, knowing what to expect, whatto do about roving umpires, what to do when someone cheats or how toplay tie-breakers," she said. "At this level, all of this is very important to know."
Machoian obviously had her team ready, as it ranthrough its six-match regular county-league season with a 6-0 mark and swept all five of its sectional dual matches.
Leading the way in Virginia Beach were Gale Edelstein (4-0 at the No. 2 singles slot) and the No. 1 doubles team of Karen Gosman and Shirley Smith, who were 5-0 during the regions and 3-1 during the regular season.
Edelstein started the Ladies on their way to capturing the sectional championship with a long three-set win in the tourney's first-dual match, downing her Shenandoah counterpart by utilizing her superior physical conditioning to survive the 90-plus-degree August weather.
"She jogs a lot, so she stays in real good shape," said Wright.
"It was really hot that day, and she lost the first set, and then she came back and won the second set. So when it came to the third set, I was pretty confident, because she just has lots of stamina.
"That match really got us going, and we wound up winning the whole thing."
In Palm Springs, the Bay Ladies will start Linda Adelman and Edelstein atthe No. 1 and 2 two singles slots, Gosman and Marilyn Balch at the No. 1 doubles, Mary Jo Powers and Wright at No. 2 doubles, and Helen Peters and Jo Griffin at No. 3 doubles.
Other members of the team who will not make the trip to California are Carol Lerian, Mary Jane Dryer, Maria Eynck and Kris Swayer.
In tomorrow's qualifying-round action, the Ladies will face the Southern regional champs at 7:30 a.m. and will take on the Mid-States region at 12:30 p.m.
Saturday, they will play the Pacific Northwest and Southern California region titlists. The team with the best record of the five teams will move on to Sunday's championship round.
"We're just hoping for the best," said Wright. "We're all pretty excited."