ORLANDO, FL– New England picked up its first USTA League National Championship of the year thanks to one of Cape Cod’s most consistent teams. The Outer Cape Stripers, from Willy’s Gym in Eastham, MA, won the 65 & Over 7.0 Men’s National Invitational on February 9 at USTA’s National Campus in Orlando, FL, headlining New England’s success at the two-weekend Invitational.
In their five years as a team, the men from the Cape have won the last three New England Sectional Championships and earned as high as a third-place National finish in 2017.
This year’s road to Nationals may have been their toughest yet, as the team faced unthinkable adversity.
Following New England Sectionals in September, Captain Jim Bisceglia and his team committed to 30 practices to prepare ahead of Nationals. But in December, their home court, Willy’s Gym, temporarily closed, forcing the team to relocate to Mid-Cape Athletic Club in Yarmouth.
“So many things had to go just right for us to win this year. It almost seemed like it was destined to happen,” said Bisceglia said. The key for us was this year was a total commitment to practicing and to the team-first concept.”
Things didn’t get any easier in Orlando, as the Stripers were faced with powerhouses USTA Florida and Middle States over the first two days, both of which reached the semifinals.
New England split its day one slate, sweeping Northern California, 3-0 but dropping the Florida match, 1-2.
“When our record was 1-1 after the first day, we knew we had to sweep all three lines in our next match and at least two out of three in our last, and that’s exactly what we did,” Bisceglia said.
The men bounced back with a 3-0 drubbing of Intermountain and, in a must-win match, defeated Middle States, 3-0. The pairs of Jim Bisceglia/Dave Kenney and Peter Weinman/Chad Small eked out two, third-set tiebreak wins.
New England advanced to the semifinals as the No. 3 seed and matched up once again with Florida, which claimed the No. 2 spot. New England had the home team’s number this time around, as they swept the Floridians, 3-0.
In a shocking upset, Middle States defeated top-finishing Southern in the other semifinal, setting up another rematch from early-round play.
In a similar result, New England took the match, 2-1, thanks to wins at the Nos. 2 and 3 positions from the pairs of Weinman & Small and David Bernstein & Jerry Haigh respectively.
“The deciding match of the tournament featured Dave Bernstein and Jerry Haigh playing a tiebreak. There must have been 60 people watching from an adjoining court,” Bisceglia recalled. “When we eventually won the tiebreak, 20 of our players and team supporters rushed the court for a group hug with Jerry and David. It was reminiscent of the Red Sox winning the World Series, only better.”
Weinman and Small led the way the entire tournament for the Stripers, finishing 6-0 as a duo.
“Tennis on Cape Cod has brought so much joy to all of us; fostering friendships that will endure,” Bisceglia said. “Our late dear coach, Joe Abbott, is responsible for introducing many of us to each other and teaching us how to play the game the right way and to not take the game or ourselves too seriously.”