It’s a team thing

Former Wildcat happy to fill in on Central squad

BlaBlaine McCormick returns a shot Sunday during the Community Hospital Team Tennis Tournament at the Elliott Tennis Center. McCormick, a Fruita Monument graduate, filled in on a team of players from Central when a player had to cancel at the last minute.

It was never about winning.

It was about helping others.

For that, Blaine McCormick had the gratitude of three Central High School tennis players this weekend at the Community Hospital Team Tennis Tournament.

When Kalene Borrego, Charis Nordstrom and Brandon Holman lost the fourth team member of Tennis the Menace to a last-second scratch, tournament organizer Ron Elliott asked Randy Hurshman and Ben Arja if they knew anyone who could fill in. Hurshman called McCormick, who dropped what he was doing and picked up his racket.

And McCormick did it despite knowing he would be playing No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles against the likes of Hurshman, a qualifier to the boys Class 5A state meet at No. 2 singles last fall; Sarah Fleming, a 5A girls state qualifier at No. 1 singles in the spring; and Matt Miller, part of a 5A state-qualifying No. 3 doubles team last fall.

McCormick bowed to all of them in singles play, but he was happy to face the challenge, and he was happy to help Borrego, Nordstrom and Holman.

“I agreed to do it because I love tennis, I love this league, and I love these people around here,” McCormick said, referring to the Mesa County Tennis League and local tennis community.

McCormick graduated from Fruita Monument High School in May, so his high school playing days are behind him, but the three Central players are like McCormick once was, a player in need of competitive matches to improve. And that’s what the Community Hospital junior tourney provides more than anything: experience.

McCormick assumed the role of team captain. He provided music for their warmups, and when he wasn’t playing, he was watching one of his teammates and cheering them on.

That’s McCormick being McCormick, Hurshman said of his former Fruita Monument teammate.

“He always kept it lively on our team and cheering everybody up if they had a rough match,” Hurshman said. “It starts with his personality and his heart. He just loves to help other people.”

That’s why when Elliott was looking for help, Hurshman’s first thought was McCormick.

“He was absolutely perfect for it,” Hurshman said.

Nordstrom attested to that. She already knew McCormick because he coached her team the previous summer in the Mesa County Tennis League.

“He’s really fun,” she said. “He brings a lot of goofiness to our team, helps you relax and have fun with it.”

Fruita quartet takes title

Hurshman, Amy Espinoza, Tavyia Voytilla and Brandon Lovato formed the Hall of Framers, which won the championship in the Nadal Division, the tourney’s top division.

The Hall of Framers, all with connections to Fruita Monument tennis, finished 3-0 in the round-robin, team-dual format, capping the tournament Sunday with a 59-24 win over Tennis the Menace. The team scoring was based on total games won.

In the other Nadal Division matchup Sunday, the Quad Squad won the closest dual of the tournament, edging Get a Grip 44-43, to finish second with a 2-1 record.

The Quad Squad had four Grand Junction High School players: Miller, Isabel Manzanares, Jessi Smith and Colton Prout.

Team approach a winner

This year marked the fourth year of Community Hospital sponsoring the tourney, and Elliott thanked the hospital for its support.

It also marked the second year of the team-dual approach instead of it being an open individual tourney for junior players. Elliott said he thinks the team approach has proved to be better for several reasons:

■ Players get more matches because of the round robin, and they play singles and doubles. No one gets eliminated after two matches.

■ They get to play competitive tennis but face less pressure and can focus on improving their skills.

■ The four singles flights and two doubles flights allow for pairing players against opponents with similar ability.

■ They have the extra motivation of helping their team.

■ And more high school junior varsity players are inclined to play as they can get matches without being overmatched.

Hurshman, who has been playing in the junior tournament since he was in the sixth grade, also is a fan of the change.

“I love the format of this tournament,” he said, “and it’s great for team bonding, too. ... It’s just a fun tournament.”

It also allows for players to get some stiffer competition if they want it, such as Fleming getting to face the hard-hitting Hurshman.

Hurshman said he always appreciated being able to face much better players, such as former Fruita Monument No. 1 singles player Vinny Castellini, because even if he got trounced, the experience helped him.

“When I was younger, I loved being able to play against the older kids,” he said.

Nordstrom, who will be a senior at Central this fall, also enjoys the team approach.

“It doesn’t make it as intense, and you can play to get better instead of feeling you have to win everything,” she said. “You get a lot more playing time, and I like that.”


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