2012 Master'U Coaches/Player Blog

2012 Master'U Coaches/Player Blog

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Coach Patton and Augustus - Sunday, December 9

I am under the gun in terms of time ( I have 20 minutes to meet the bus for the tournament dinner celebration and players party), but all of our incredible American Collegiate team wants to spread the great news!  USA's finest collegiate stars repeated as the Master's U BNP Paribas Champions with our 5-2 victory over Germany today.  The fragrance of winning this International Championship is so very sweet, but the greatest feeling is the power of the friendships that have been developed within our team as well as the wonderful new friendships with players from across the world. It is so exhilarating to experience an intense International Tennis Championships especially in a team format representing your country and all of American Collegiate Tennis.

Our team may have been composed by players from USC, Virginia, Michigan, Florida, ASU, and coaches from Cal and Boise State, but this glorious week we were all one representing the USA and NCAA collegiate tennis.

I don't have time to recap the matches, but suffice it to say that our women singles set the bar high with exciting victories over the German women who play WTA pro events.

Lauren Embree won at #1 in two intense sets (both times coming back to win). At #2 Zoe Scandalis was magical and a warrior in defeating her German opponent in a 3 set thriller.

With the glorious 2 point lead, the men in Jarmere Jenkins and Evan King overwhelmed the two German men in straight sets. It was breathtaking to see them play such superior tennis.

The match was clinched in the singles, but we played an inspired German in men's and women's doubles who won both matches in a close 8 game pro set. The closing match was a beautiful win by Ray Sarmiento and Jacqui Cako as they had the USA finish strong with the title with a 8-1 victory.

You can click on http://www.master-u-bnpparibas.com/cmsms/index.php?page=2012-3 to view photos of the tournament site  *click on the photos link.

As you can imagine, our entire team of:   Jarmere Jenkins (UVA),  Ray Sarmiento (USC), Evan King (Michigan), Lauren Embree (Florida), Zoe Scandalis (USC) and Jacqui Cako (ASU) as well as Coach Amanda Augustus (Cal) and Coach Greg Patton (Boise State) are still flying high from repeating our championship (3rd championship in the past four years).

As we drove to the hotel we were singing "I belong to you, You belong to me.....You are my Sweetheart"
Off to the Tournament Dinner and Party.  Then a pick up at 3:30am bus ride to catch our flight to Paris and then home to the States.  

In this state of mind, and this Glorious Heightened State of Living, who needs sleep?  

Go USA !

Coach Patton and Augustus - Saturday, December 8

Great News!  For the fourth straight year, Team USA has reached the finals of the Master’s U BNP Paribas  Finals and will be competing for the Team Championships due to our 6-1 victory over Russia today. Today we will be battling the #4 seed Germany for the team title. Germany upset the host nation France 6-1.

Not much time to write, for it is getting late here in Aix en Provence (near Marseille in Southern France) and we have an early wake up call for tomorrow (Sunday) but we definitely want to share our joy in reaching the finals.  

The team match begins with the two women’s singles matches and in our case these matches are always like a action pack thriller which begins with action packed escapades from the very beginning.  As you can imagine, the strength in the Russian team is the incredible powerful Russian women players.  We knew that we would be in a cat fight from the very first ball that was struck.

#1 Lauren Embree (University of Florida) fought tooth and nail in her win over her Russian opponent 6-2, 6-4. Don’t let the score mislead you, for every point was an epic with the fierce and violent ferocity of the Russians strokes matching up with the graceful finesse and steadiness of Lauren’s game.  It looked like the Russian would take the second set when she grabbed a 3-0 lead, but Lauren’s composure and fortitude turned the tide to secure a 1-0 lead for the USA.  On the adjacent court, Zoe Scandalis (USC)was in the exact battle. Zoe is the epitome of an athletic backboard who doesn’t truly overpower her opponent, but through her will power, retrieving ability, mental strength and patience will out last you. Her Russian opponent, hit the ball at the speed of light in an all or nothing assault. Zoe in every set found herself down in all three sets, but somehow always managed to sneak back in both the 2nd and 3rd sets.  In the second set, she came back when down 3-5 to get into a tiebreaker. Once again, she was down in the tiebreaker (2-4) but was able to swing the tide and capture the second set. In the 3rd set, Zoe was again down a break but fought back to get herself into a tiebreaker to decide the match. She fell in the tie breaker, but not before she had sapped almost every bit of fuel from the gas tank of the Russians resolve.  

The tide swung with a Jarmere Jenkins (University of Virginia) men’s singles thrashing with a 6-1, 6-1 victory.  Evan King (University of Michigan) won his match when his opponent retired with an injury in the beginning games of the match.  The USA now held a 3-1 lead going into the doubles.  Our women’s doubles team of Embree (Florida) and Jacqui Cako (Arizona State)played the match of the day to secure the victory and ensure the Americans a date with the Championships with a 6-7,7-6, 11-9 victory. As you can imagine, this was a see saw battle which saw leads come and go like the tide on the beach. One second we thought that our gals were going to seal the deal, only to find them falling behind with no  hope  or cavalries in sight.  Thanks to Lauren Embree whose game of relentless tenacity worked magic and Jacqui Cako coming up with miraculous volleys to win several pivotal points, our gals were able to pull off a great comeback victory and secure the team win and a date with our fourth straight appearance in the championship match.

Our doubles team of Jarmere Jenkins and Evan King put icing on the cake with a 8-2 win and a trip to the finals tomorrow.

Team USA (supported by the USTA and Intercollegiate Tennis Association) now has a four year record of 10-1.  We are now looking to secure our third World Championship in four years.

This team of Americans are truly exceptional! They represent our country with class, poise, humor, and intensity. We are having the time of our lives, (and remember the matches last all day- starting with 7am wake up calls and the final matches are completed after 7pm.  In addition, the tournament is held in two indoor facilities (one with heating ) and the other which is an ice box (temperatures in the high 30s). We are so excited about tomorrow’s match for we will get to play in the heated facility and not in the “frozen tundra”.

Last not but not least, our six players not only have talent on the tennis court but also in singing and dancing as a group in the team van, in restaurants and at the tournament venue. We not only have won two big matches (over Belgium and Russia) but also have won numerous friends captivated by our players zest for life.

Go USA!!!

Coach Patton and Augustus - Friday, December 7
First day of the Master’s U and we started off with a resounding bang by defeating a very strong Belgium squad by a 7-0 score.  Tomorrow morning we square off against the # 3 seeded team of Russia who just won a Russian Barnburner 4-3 against Great Britain.  We are playing at the Country Club in Aix en Provence which has very temperamental weather moods. A few days ago the weather was sunny and in the high 50s and today there was a light snow fall and freezing temps. We play indoors in an unheated, so it feels like we are playing in an igloo.   Nevertheless, the tennis of our players in the red, white and blue heated up the facility and our spirits.  Our victory over Belgium was sweet for they are very talented, and to be able to compete and win against a tough opponent in the first round of this 8 nation tournament has toughened us up and given great confidence.

All the team matches begin with the two women singles.  #1 Lauren Embree (Univ. Florida) kicked it off with a display of consistency from the base line against the Belgium player (who had a top 200 WTA ranking).  She cruised to a 6-3, 6-4 victory.

#2 women’s singles player Zoe Scandalis (USC) must have felt like she had been hit by a snow storm and avalanche in the beginning of her match for she fell behind 1-4.  In the first three games the Belgium hit explosive winners on every point, and Zoe was only won two points out of the first 14 points played. Her remarkable composure and mature adjustments in her tactics brought her back to win 5 straight games to win the first set 6-4, and then she switched gears even up in the 2nd set to breeze to a 6-3 second set win and the match.

This is all that we needed for our men to step up with poise and determination.  They never looked back as #2 singles Ray Sarmiento (USC) won 6-3, 6-4 with his flashy and breath taking skills (half volley winners, and the scrambling of a hungry cheetah chasing down his tasty prey.) 

The athleticism of #1 Jarmere Jenkins (Virginia) was awe inspiring as he defeated a gritty Belgium 6-1, 7-6 (6).

After clinching the match, America’s pride dominated in the doubles.

Women doubles of Jacquline Cako (USC) and Lauren Embree (Florida) won 6-1, 3-6, 10-4

Men’s doubles of Evan King (Michigan) and Ray Sarmiento (USC) dominated 6-2, 6-2

Mixed doubles was the whip  cream on the sundae when Jacqui Cako –Evan King won 8-3.

Semis tomorrow at 10am against the Russians who brought an impressive  squad to France.

The following observations are from our women (Lauren Embree, Jacqui Cako, and Zoe Scandalis)

Go USA!

Lauren Embree - Friday, December 7

Team USA here from France! This is Lauren Embree writing you all after our first victory over Belgium today in the quarter finals.  We had a wake up call at 7:15 this morning, ate some breakfast and headed outside to see ice on the windshield of our van. (Being from Florida, I was not to happy to see that).   We started our matches at 10 am today against Belgium.  We got off to a great start with 2 women’s singles wins, followed by 5 more wins throughout the day. We could not have played as well and had as much fun out there without help of our crazy team cheering everyone on.

It is currently 9 pm here in France, and after a long day of matches, cheering on our team in the freezing cold, and a nice team dinner, we are playing the card game “President” in the hotel lobby. Most of us have been lucky and have gotten our homework done which is good since we’re all pretty tired after our matches.

Jacqueline Cako - Friday, December 7
It’s Jacqueline Cako here now and just want to say I got the best hand ever in the game and just dominated! It’s all in good fun though. This trip has been pretty amazing so far that it’s tough to find the words to describe it. We’re all in high spirits, bubbling with excitement for the coming days and the chance to play for the title again. We did some team bonding last night which brought us closer, and got us feeling like a “family.” Being so far away from home and not having phones or internet most of the day forces us to rely on each other which is sometimes the biggest blessing. With such a variety of people there isn’t ever a dull moment. We’ve got Zoe who is the queen of random, unintentional death glares, and Lauren who is always smiling and is a rock on the court. Then there’s Evan who is always dancing a little shuffle, Raymond who just has a ton of swag and Jarmere who is definitely one of a kind.

Zoe Scandalis - Friday, December 7
Hey everyone! This is Zoe Scandalis writing from our hotel in the beautiful (but freezing!) city Marseilles. This was the very first day I got the chance to compete with Team USA and it was so awesome. Getting to spend time with Lauren, Jacqueline, Jarmere, Ray, Evan, the coaches Greg and Amanda, and Greg’s beyond sweet daughter Chelsea has been so wonderful. With all the time we have spent together in the last few days I am starting to find out what genuinely awesome people they all are and today going out to battle against Belgium as a team, with USA written on our backs and wearing Red White and Blue, was a feeling that felt so good! I can’t wait to get back on the court with these guys tomorrow. The cheering, yelling, dancing, continuous sarcasm, and jumping around will only continue with the team and I am so looking forward to taking on another country with them. Like Coach Patton said from the start “we are a family” and now I am really starting to feel the love. Anyone we face will be in trouble because we have something great going. Let’s go USA!!!

Coach Patton and Augustus - Thursday, December 6
Time is flying (seems like we got here a month ago, and in the same sense, it seems like it was only seconds ago) that our USA Collegiate team landed in Marseille, France for the 7th Annual Master’s U BNP Paribas  Championships.

The name of this tournament is sneaky, for it is hard to figure out, but basically it is the World Team Intercollegiate Championships for the World.  Over the past seven years, many countries have participated with talent loaded teams. We bring some of our best and most promising American collegiate players (three men and three women) to represent the Red, White, and Blue.  

At first I was going to write about the greatest aspect of this tournament , and then I realized that there are so many “greatest aspects” of this tournament. Let me list the glorious advantages of playing here:

Our American players are exposed to great players and teams from around the world  (France, Belgium, Germany,  Great Britain, Ireland, China, and Russia).  Not only do we compete against them, but we establish life long friendships with our competitors and thus this trip truly becomes a great learning experience.  The tournament is a wonderful cultural experience and is run like a professional event. (In fact the tournament Referee is the world famous Pascual Maria who chairs the finals of Wimbledon, French, US Open, and Australian as well as the Davis Cup ties.)

We have the ability to bring our great young collegiate stars together in a team aspect and it is truly glorious to see them raise each other as players and people, and in affect be lifted to greater heights. Even the car rides to the tennis facility and site seeing are wonderful events of singing, dancing and laughter .  Texting and phones are not allowed at meal time, so they are laughter filled sharing with team members who swap tales of football dominance at their respective schools (among many topics).

After flights all day Monday and Monday night the team arrived into Marseille on Tuesday morning. We checked in, and went to the courts (at the beautiful Ligue Country Club in Aix De Provence (on the French Riviera).  Our team consists of three women--- Lauren Embree (Un of Florida), Jacqui Cako (Arizona State), Zoe Scandalis (USC).  The men are Jarmere Jenkins (Unversity of Virginia), Evan King (Michigan), and Ray Sarmiento (USC).   What a gift of Christmas to have such great collegiate players representing our country during the Holidays. The practices have been intense, focused, and fun. We have drilled, played various group games (dingles) as well as played singles and doubles games for the past three days (Tuesday, Wednesday, and today, Thursday).  We are extremely blessed to have Amanda Augustus, the women’s tennis coach at Cal-Berkeley helping run the ship with me. Her expertise as a renowned collegiate coach and talented player in her own right uplifts the team. The practices are intense, focused, and especially exhilarating. No wonder that these are some of our best and brightest.  

We still take time out to walk the streets of Marseille on a beautifully sunny, yet chilly day  along the coast line of Southern France. We are together as a “Tennis Family” with the common purpose to propel us to defend our titles as World Champions from 2009 and 2011. With three veterans In Jarmere Jenkins, Lauren Embree, and Jacqui Cako we are ready to repeat as Champions. Our team is together every waking minute. If we are not training , hitting and stretching on the court  we are together eating, sight seeing,  meeting and even studying  together.   The main goal is to become more than a team but a family preparing to play for each other.

Tonight was especially sweet for the tournament conducted a “Parade” through the beautiful streets of Aix en Provence.  We followed an exquisite French Brass Band under the colorful lights of the tight streets of this sparkling French town with the seven other countries.  After marching over a mile to the City Hall, we had the draw ceremony in which our USA team was named the #1 seed  (due to winning the 2011 Master’s U tournament last year).  We play our quarterfinals match tomorrow against a tough Belgium team (whom we defeated last year in the semifinals).  We are in the same half with #3 seed Russia and an always dangerous Great Britain team.  The format of the tournament is 2 women’s singles, 2 men’s singles, followed by a women’s doubles match, a men’s doubles match and finally the mixed doubles match (which has clinched the world title in both 2009 and 2011 as the deciding match in the finals against France).  Time to say goodnight for our match with Belgium begins tomorrow morning with a 7 am wake up call.

Go USA!

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