USTA tennis

Howard County's 3.0 senior women's USTA tennis team won the Mid-Atlantic Section title and will compete for a national title in early October. From left: Karen Johnson, Lori Jacoby, Sonya Springfield, I. Hoffman, Susan Thompson, Karen Lackler, Sandy McKee, Patty Konecke, Sam Macuci, Debbie MacDonald (captain) and Linda Daniels. (Photo courtesy of Debbie MacDonald / September 26, 2012)

Two Columbia area USTA Tennis League teams will soon be vying for national titles.

Each team won its respective sectional by a slim margin.

After splitting its first two matches, captain Debbie MacDonald's 3.0 senior women's team captured the Mid-Atlantic Sectional title, 7-6, 6-4, over captain Cynthia Smith-Seidel's team, which is also from Howard County.

It came down to total games won for the 2.5 mixed doubles team captained by Kat Savoy. Virginia Beach was the only other team in the 2.5 sectional, played in July in Fredericksburg, Va. The teams played twice.

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"I knew it would come down to the last court playing (David Gong and Kelly Mahoney) and what their score was," Savoy said. "It was a nail biter. When it was over, we burst into tears."

In league tennis, the 3.0 senior women and the 2.5 mixed only play doubles — three per match.

The Mac attack

When she turned 50, Debbie MacDonald gave up playing soccer and decided to try tennis instead. She began taking lessons.

Her teaching pro suggested that she start a tennis team. MacDonald remembers the exact words, "You should be a captain because there's nothing to it."

"That's the biggest lie in the world," she said.

After playing on another senior (50+) team, MacDonald and Sam Macuci decided to start their own team - the Double Macs. They were "pretty successful" their first year, she said, but have really gelled this year.

Going 10-0 in the Columbia USTA League, Double Mac earned a spot in the district tournament. Smith-Seidel's team, which was 6-4 in league play, received a wild card entry and upset Double Mac in the finals on a tie break to win the district title.

Double Mac received a wild card entry for the sectional where it met Smith-Seidel's team in the finals again.

"The final match was me and my partner Patty Konecke. It came down to us," MacDonald said. "The final set was 7-6 — that was tense — then 6-4."

"I didn't know and I really don't like to know," that I have to win, Konecke said.

MacDonald intentionally keeps her team small. There are just 11 players.

"I like to have a team with a pretty tight roster. My philosophy is everybody should get to play a lot," MacDonald said. "Also, I try to develop several partnerships that can be successful."

Camaraderie is one distinct advantage Double Mac has.

"We enjoy each other's company. We're a group of women that just likes each other," said Macuci, the team's co-captain. "Everybody encourages you. Your partner doesn't roll her eyes (if you miss a shot). This is probably the only team that I have been on that has been this special."

The 3.0 senior women's national tournament is Oct. 5-7 in Palm Springs, Calif.