National Championships results and coverage of Men’s and Women’s Nationals

Scott Estes and Mike Cochrane
Scott Estes and Mike Cochrane
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Nationals Chairman Bill Taubner and his staff of volunteers had nearly every angle covered for the week-long platform tennis festivities in Pelham, New York. In a word, the start of the Women’s Platform Tennis Nationals could be summed up as soggy. Rain plagued most of Friday, March 22, the first day of the competition. Despite the best efforts of the staff of the New York Athletic Club to dry courts in between showers, by 3 p.m., a substantial shower lasting a solid 40 minutes persisted.

A few games already in play were completed, but as the tired and cold players felt the usually crisp hits of the ball turn into a soggy, hard-tocontrol effort, spectators and fellow competitors drifted away to the dry confines of the clubhouse. There, they waited and hoped for the rain to subside enough for the New York Athletic Club staff to once again bring out the towels and push-blowers to dry the courts.

By 3:45, however, the rain let up enough for play to resume on the four heated lower courts at the NYAC.

There, the most major upset in the 2007 Women’s Nationals came after Heather Prop and Lynne Schneebeck, both of Cincinnati, defeated the number one team in the country (and 2006 National finalists) – Kerri Delmonico and Aila Main.

The pair said their strategy consisted of simply playing a lot of matches. “We played five matches in the President’s cup,” Prop said. “We tried to play the ball and our team, not our opponents.”

Schneebeck said her team’s strength comes from the fact that each player knows the other’s style. “(Prop’s) kind of quick. She’s got the spin,” Schneebeck said. “Today we were really focused.”

Prop and Schneebeck’s win took them to the Saturday morning semi-finals, where they were defeated by 3-time past Nationals Champions Mary Doten (Chicago) and Susie Keane (Detroit) 6-1, 6-1. To get to their semi-final, Doten and Keane defeated Bobo Delaney (New Jersey) and Tonia Mangan (New York) co-seeded as the #4 teams in the women’s draw, in the quarter-final, by a score of 6-2, 7-5.

The other semi-final pitted Cindy Prendergast (Delaware) and Lauren Zink (Lancaster, PA) against the third-seeded Chicago duo Sally Cottingham and Chris Sheldon. “We’ve trained hard and we’re focused;’ Cottingham said before the match. Prendergast and Zink responded in one of the most exciting matches of the women’s event, winning 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

In the finals, Doten and Keane were challenged by the formidable Cindy Prendergast and Lauren Zink in a grueling match that was nearly a solid two-and-one-half hours of edge-of-your-seat platform tennis. Despite Lauren Zink’s cannon-like forehands and Prendergast’s solid backcourt performance, Doten and Keane proved once again that they are National Championship material and pulled the match out 6-2, 2-6, 7-5.

Doten, who left for the airport immediately following the match, said it helps to have three prior Nationals under your belt when you enter a court with this kind of competition. “You know that you can be down five games to four and still pull it out,” she said. “Lauren has a wicked forehand, and the toughest part is figuring out whether to hit it or get out of the way.”

Keane also said she felt the pressure of her competition’s groundstrokes. “The most difficult is the fact that Lauren’s forehand is scary. You feel a little rushed. Cindy is as solid as can be. We got a little lucky,” Keane said. “It could have gone either way. I’m glad it was such a good match. It was probably the best final we ever had.”

Keane said she has had to change her pre-nationals training to meet and overcome such competition. “Now that I live in Detroit, its not like Chicago. I kind of come out three weeks before Nationals and I cram with my friend Eva Welsher. We drill all day. I don’t have the games I used to have in Chicago.” Keane said that her drilling partner is definitely the key to her personal success.

The Men’s Nationals began on Saturday under threatening skies on a breezy 45 degree day. The 128-team draw saw few surprises in day one, as 14 of the 16 seeded teams advanced to the round-of-16, followed by 7 of the top 8 reaching the quarter-finals.

On Sunday, the rain gave way to a perfectly sunny, 50-degree day. Crowds swelled to more than 500 people to watch the semi-finals of the National Championships. To say the least, it was a perfect day for platform tennis at this historic club on the Long Island Sound. Sailboats meandered back and forth in the distance as the best players in the country took center court.

In the first semi-final, the top-seeded Baltimore team – David Caldwell and Blake Cordish played seven-time National Men’s Champions Flip Goodspeed and Scott Mansager. Starting at 10 a.m., the match extended past 1 pm. Goodspeed and Mansager used patience measured with calculated offense to defeat the more-aggressive Caldwell/Cordish.

The second semi-final featured four of the most exciting players on the tour. The second-seeded team of Dan Rothschild and John Schmitt fought hard against fourth seeds – Mike Cochrane and Scott Estes. Many thought the three-set battle was the best exhibition of the entire championship weekend with Cochrane and Estes prevailing.

The Men’s finals paired off Cochrane and Estes against Goodspeed and Mansager. Prior to the match, Goodspeed said his team’s strategy would consist of slowing down the aggressive Cochrane/Estes offense, but that strategy was offset early on in the match.

Cochrane/Estes won 6-3, 6-4 after an intense 2-hour finals battle.

“I feel they absolutely did try to slow us down,” Cochrane said after the win. “That was one of the reasons why I tried to create a faster pace. They tried to wait it out and we looked for good shots to make.”

Estes said the team strategy might have been different if they didn’t lead early in the match. “It would have been very different if we were behind,” he said. “We tried to stay ahead.”

The 2007 National finals was a first for Estes. Cochrane, however, played in the 2005 National finals.

Source: Platform Tennis News, Vol. 8, Issue 5, April, 2007