Mormon women headed for national tennis tournament
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It was about more than just tennis for the 13 Latter-day Saint women from the Ivory Ridge Tennis Club who went to the United State’s Tennis Association’s 3.5 National Tournament in Tucson, Ariz. Oct. 14-16 to represent the intermountain division.
The team is made up of women from different wards and ages. They also have a team coach, making the number heading to nationals 13. They generally practice twice a week for about an hour and a half at the Ivory Ridge Tennis Club and range from 30-65 years of age.
Between the members of the team they have 57 children and 70 grandchildren.
Shannon Mangum of the Riverwoods Ward, North Edgemont Stake, is the team captain. “I have loved working with these talented ladies. I realize that they all have busy family lives and when we get together, we want it to be an enjoyable experience,” she said. “We’ve just been working hard and practicing a ton. It’s been great. We have ladies from all different ages. Great ladies. Really competitive and really committed to the team.”
“We signed up and have just been playing together. Most of us have been playing together for three or four years, while others are newer,” said Ingrid Van Leeuwen, a member of the Alpine 9th Ward, Alpine Utah Stake, who is also the team’s co-captain. She has been playing tennis for 16 years.
The team played in the Utah USTA Adult Summer League, which provided them with an opportunity to go on and play in the USTA Intermountain Adult Section Tournament in August against other teams in the Intermountain division which includes Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Wyoming. The team won that tournament and was then guaranteed three matches at nationals.
“The interesting part about it is that they changed the date for districts so that it wouldn’t be on Sunday for us. Districts was Utah play, so they ended it on Saturday where they normally end it on Sunday,” said Libbie Hamann from the Battlecreek 7th Ward, Pleasant Grove Utah East Stake.
“It is a special group of women, and we enjoy our tennis. Going to nationals is really the icing on the cake for us,” Sister Van Leeuwen said.
Sylvia Williams of the Canyon View Ward, Highland Utah East Stake, is the team coach for nationals. “I play tennis because I love to exercise and it is relaxing and challenging at the same time. I enjoy it because of the people I get to meet from all walks of life and with all kinds of beliefs and interests. It has been a good way to share my religion when I play in tournaments that are out of Utah,” she said.
There are also some family ties within the team. Sister Williams is the mother of Marianne Squires, from the Highland 3rd Ward, Highland Utah Stake, who is a member of the team. Sister Squires also has a cousin who plays on the team, Pam Caldwell of the Alpine 5th Ward, Alpine Utah West Stake.
“I love playing tennis because it’s a great way to forget about life’s stress and worries and just have a blast. I have met some very amazing people and have formed some great friendships and I love having my cousin Pam as my doubles partner,” Sister Squires said.
Tina Holland, a member of the Lehi 43rd Ward, Lehi Utah North Stake, started playing tennis about seven years ago. Her daughter-in-law, Nicole Holland, from the same ward, also plays on the tennis team with her.
Tina invited Nicole to play after she had her first baby. Nicole has also been able to play with her family.
“It has been a great sport for keeping me active and also being able to socialize with other ladies. I also have a husband who plays tennis and my oldest daughter has started taking lessons. It’s a great family sport,” Sister Nicole Holland said.
Not only have these women been able to form their own friendships, but the sport has given them the chance to build and strengthen bonds within their own families.
“One thing that I think is the neatest is that, for playing tennis, I have teenage daughters and they ask me to play. And I get to spend time with them,” said team member Amy Sheffield from the Mountainville 5th Ward, Alpine Utah Stake.
Sylvia Bischoff, Lehi 17th Ward, Lehi Utah East Stake, said “I learned tennis when I was young from a much older brother-in-law. He passed the love and passion of the sport of tennis on to me.”
Julie Schwerdt of the Lindon 15th Ward, Lindon Utah Stake, said, “I play tennis because I love the sport — you can play it all of your life — for the friends I have made, as an outlet for stress and for the challenge of mastering a skill.”
For Natalie Griffin of the Traverse Mountain 8th Ward, Traverse Mountain Utah Stake, tennis has a connection with how she became a member of the Church since missionaries baptized her during her sophomore year during tennis season. Chris Marshall, from the Loafer Mountain Ward, Salem Utah Stake, is also a member of the team headed to Nationals.
During practices, the 12 team members support each other with encouraging words and end up swapping stories about family and life.
The team was formed when the women signed up and were grouped together based on experience and skill levels.
“We have a great friendship. It has developed into a nice group of friends. We have spent a lot of time together,” Sister Van Leeuwen said. “We probably wouldn’t even know each other if it wasn’t for tennis, with the exception of the few connections.”
The team won their first two matches—the first against the Southwest Tucson team and the second against the Missouri Valley-Oklahoma team—and was defeated during their third match Saturday, Oct. 15 by the New England team.