Monthly Archives: April 2013

Red River Shootout

Grace, Yaz, Mary eating

15 OTA players made the trip to Shreveport last weekend, and it turned out to be an absolutely fantastic weekend!  The weather was phenomenal, which made for good tennis and enjoyable spectating… which is OF COURSE the most important thing!!

A quick look at some of our result highlights:

  • Emma Baker won the Girls 14s without dropping a set the whole tournament.   Lexi Beaver beat the #1 seed in the first round in a 3rd set breaker, then won her semifinal in another breaker, en route to finishing 2nd.  And Hayden Swope followed up last week’s finals appearance with a 3rd place finish.  3 out of 15 in the top 3 is a pretty solid showing, so great job!


Lexi, Kyle, Catherine in Shreveport

  • In addition to those in the Top 3, Brooke Killingsworth, Catherine Nettle, and Kyle Henry all won out in the back draw, making it to the conso finals (which due to time restrictions are not played in these events).

So that’s how we did.  And, as usual, that’s only part of the story!  Here are some of my favorite moments from the weekend:

  • Listening to Coach Beau (aka, The Varmint) and (mostly) Hunter Nall trade hunting/redneck stories for 6 ½ hours.  Seriously, it was awesome.
  • At the end of Friday’s matches, Hunter gutted out an 11-9 tiebreaker in the 2nd set to close out his victory.  About 2 seconds after his match finished, Jack Neal split sets and went into a breaker of his own.  At the first side change, Andrew Miller sighed and said, “I think it’s easier playing than watching.”  For those that don’t know, this isn’t common.  Tennis is an individual, often cutthroat sport, where every player is looking out for him/herself.  For a 15-year-old kid to be so into his OTA teammates’ matches speaks first to Andrew’s quality of character, but hopefully also to the culture of our program.


12 girls in Shreveport

  • This week’s Quote of the Week is, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall,” from Confucius.  Patrick Swope sent it to me, because he thought it was appropriate for the weekend.  I totally agreed.  I generally think that the most difficult match to play is usually the 3rd and 4th place match, because you are getting over the disappointment of being so close to the finals, but you still have to gather yourself to go play an extremely tough opponent.  Hayden Swope did just that, dropping his semifinal in a fashion that left him feeling as though he never brought his “A” game, and then bouncing back to take down a very solid opponent for 3rd.   Well done, Haydo!


  • But, if there is a situation that might be even more difficult, it’s when you are one of the top seeds and lose early.  The embarrassment is what makes this kind of loss so difficult.  Having to walk around the facility for the rest of the weekend, thinking everyone is looking at you like the overrated loser who couldn’t hold their ranking.  Then you have to check in the next day and play consos, where it is easy to fall prey to the fallacy that you have nothing to gain, and only something to lose in every match that’s left.  Just ask Kyle.  Seeded #2 in the Boys 18s, he lost a frustrating 3-setter in the first round.  How did he handle it?  Won out in the consos, dropping only 4 games in 2 matches.  Or you could ask Brooke.  She also lost first round.  Except she was the #1 seed.  She showed up the next morning and absolutely punished the consolation draw.  In fact, her image grew because of how she handled that situation, as coaches, tournament officials, and other parents all took notice.  I told someone today that I’ve never been happier with a tournament where so many of our top seeds lost.  They didn’t understand.  But I know that those players have won, and will win again.  To watch Kyle and Brooke handle themselves like true champions is as rewarding as it gets.

Lexi in Shreveport

  • But my favorite moment of the whole tournament happened before the first match was even played.  We had warmed up, and I wanted to get Jake Keefauver some more hitting in before he left for his site.  Before I could ask anyone, Kyle piped up, “I’ll hit with you, come on.”  Jake is 12, and just won his first STA Level 3 match this weekend.  Kyle is 17, and one of the top players in the state of Arkansas.  Again, this is first and foremost a(nother) reflection on Kyle’s character, but is also an aspect of OTA that we absolutely love.  The Varmint (Coach Beau) said to me in the hotel on Saturday how impressed he is with our kids and parents.  How he’s never been around a group like that.  It’s sometimes hard for those new to the program, or outside of it, to understand all of our talk about “OTA family.”  But it’s real.  And we are grateful to all of you for making it that way!

So there you have it, the 2013 Red River Shootout round up.  Thanks to all that went, it was a great weekend!!


Another great Little Rock weekend!

Another Southern Level 3 tournament, another successful OTA weekend!  We were very impressed with our overall play, and hope you can all see the progress you’re making.  It was great having 28 players to watch, as it gives us a great feel for where we are as a program.  And, with 3 finalists in one Level 3 tournament, we tied our record… for the second straight tournament!!

pleasant valley 1

Here were our top finishers:

  • Brooke Killingsworth (Girls 12s), Hayden Swope (Boys 12s), and Dylan DeLuca (Boys 16s) all made the finals… and all got second.  Oh well, next time!  Dylan made it for the second straight tournament, avenging his loss in last month’s Polar Bear final in the semis.  Hayden gutted out one of the most physical matches of the tournament in his semis, taking down a kid who crushed him last fall.  And Brooke lost a tough 3rd set tiebreaker in the final – on her 11th birthday!
  • Avery Hughes (Girls 12s) was our other placer, finishing 4th.  In addition, Colin Clay (Boys 10s) and Catherine Nettle (Girls 16s) won out in consolation.

pleasant valley 3In addition to our top finishers, here were some standout moments from the weekend:

  • For the most part, our attitudes were incredible!  OTA players demonstrated discipline and self-control, without sacrificing passion and fight.  It made us proud as coaches to watch them.  But this weekend was impressive in a slightly different way – we stayed above the fray in many moments where we could have just responded in kind.  Brooke was treated about as rudely as possible by one of her opponents, and never took a shot of her own, just ignored it and went about her business.  Hayden witnessed an absolutely epic meltdown by his opponent, and simply grabbed his stuff and walked away.  All over the grounds, we witnessed OTA players refusing to sink to lower levels of behavior, and we were just thrilled!
  • Jack Neal HAS to be singled out, though.  One opponent insulted and screamed his way through their match.  Jack never did more than chuckle and shake his head before walking away.  Great, right?  No… amazing!  Because Jack used to go ballistic over any slight, real or perceived.   For some people, it’s easy to ignore things.  In a way, it’s even more rewarding when you know how hard it used to be for someone to do that.  Way to go, Jack!
  • Mary Houston had an entire city (it felt like) against her in her 2nd round match.  Parents (not hers) were calling out wrong scores, coaching, and generally cheering obnoxiously against her throughout the match.  Let’s just say the umpires – while they normally do a great job – were a bit overmatched in this case.  Not only did Mary have the courage to fist pump and fight her way to victory… but she did it at age 10.  Incredible.
  • And finally, there was a poignant, bittersweet moment in the Girls 12s semis.  Brooke and Avery met up and had an absolute battle.  For those that haven’t played, it is a difficult situation playing a good friend, doubles partner, teammate, or major rival.  It is even harder to play someone who is all of those!  Our girls showed each other the respect to play as hard as they could, without holding back or whining or making excuses.  They were fist-pumping, crying “come on,” and practically diving for balls all over the court.  When the dust finally settled, with Brooke narrowly taking the 3rd set breaker, they came to the net and Avery immediately embraced Brooke.  It was a devastating loss for her, yet she had the maturity and dignity to congratulate her friend.  And for Brooke, it was a huge win, yet her celebration was muted to say the least.  Before their next match, I saw them walking through the trees at Rebsamen together.  Laughing.  That is what it means to compete, and that is a true OTA attitude.

So thank you all for a great weekend, we appreciated all of you!  See you at practice, and next weekend in Shreveport…

pleasant valley 2

Catch Drew’s display at Kennedy Coffee

As if Kennedy Coffee weren’t already the coolest coffee place around, it just got a whole lot cooler… Coach Drew has his art on display until May 5th!!

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When you get a chance, stop in for a mango smoothie with oj (Antea’s favorite), a Green Monster (Christy and Jared’s favorite), an 8 oz Americano – with 3 Splendas (that would be Abbey), a spiced chai latte (Drew), or just a nice, warm cup of joe (keep it black, keep it paleo!!).

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Seriously, it’s a really awesome display, you guys will love it!


8th Annual OTA Championships

Jason and Christy 1

What a great weekend we had for our 8th Annual OTA Championships!!  Thank you all so much for participating, it was a fantastic showing from our entire group… as usual!  We’d like to thank our sponsors Coppertone and Nestle for providing sunscreen and water.  Also, thanks to our Process Communication Model trainer, Jason Leal from Talknotch (pictured to the right, no doubt waist deep in PCM theory with Christy!), for coming down to see the kids perform and share his insights with our coaches.

This year’s overall champion was Jordan Sheppard, who won after appearing in the finals for the second straight year.  Jordan is the last of the “Original 7” members who began with us on a January day a little over 7 years ago.  (We got a little nostalgic, so you’ll see some “old school” pictures of him below!)  In this, his 8th and final try, he overcame a very game Grady McCain, who pushed him to the limit before Jordan pulled out the final tiebreaker, 16-14.

In addition to securing his first OTA Championship, the win also vaulted him to the top of the leaderboard in this year’s OTA Player of the Year race.   It came down to the final day, but with Luke Lundstrum barely dropping a 3rd set breaker to Grady in the semis, Jordan clinched it by simply reaching the finals.  So a big congratulations to Jordan, for taking home both titles in the same day!

jared and mav ota tournament 2013

Two other awards were given out, and they are some of the toughest ones to judge… which is a really good thing!  The Sportsmanship Award went to Veronica VanderMolen, and the Fight Award went to The Richie Joshuva.  We had lots of great choices for both awards (in fact, the Fight Award truly came down to the final match between The Richie and Srikar Chikkala), but in the end we felt that Veronica and The Richie were most deserving.  Congratulations to both!

So thanks again for coming out and showing your OTA pride, it’s this type of event that truly shows what kind of family we are!  We appreciate the incredible attitudes from all of our players and parents alike.  Playing against your friends is sometimes the toughest thing to do, but you all managed it with the class and dignity we’ve come to expect.

Great job to everyone, we’ll see you this week!


2013 OTA Championshipslittle jordan

Rafa Division – Jordan Sheppard def Grady McCain

Djoker Division – Hayden Swope def Kruti Shah

Federer Division – Jake Keefauver def Tripp McConnell

Murray Division – Agnibho Roy def Carson Nettle

Stephens Division – Carter Swope def Grace Coleman

Isner Division – Ella Coleman def Andrew Schweitzer

2013 OTA Player of the Year – Jordan Sheppard

  • OTA Championships Winner – Jordan Sheppard
  • Highest Southern Ranking – Hayden Swope (11th in the Southern Section, Boys 10s)
  • OTA Doubles Champion – Jordan Sheppard/Srikar Chikkala
  • OTA Team Event Champions – Luke Lundstrum, Nathan Street, Jack Neal, Hans  Corbell, Sammi Cowan, Tony Kopek, Tripp McConnell
  • OTA Shoot-Out Winner – Dylan DeLuca

 jordan, dylan, lex, kyle

Hall of Fame

OTA Champions:

2006 – Abbey Sharpe def Andrew Todd

2007 – Abbey Sharpe def Retz Chapman

2008 – Abbey Sharpe def Martin Tabler

2009 – Martin Tabler def Abbey Sharpe

2010 – Daniel “DJ” Joshuva def Caleb “C Mac” McReynolds

2011 – Reed Churchill def Kyle “Holiday” Henry

2012 – Kyle “Holiday” Henry def Jordan Sheppard

2013 – Jordan Sheppard def Grady McCain


Player of the Year:

2013 – Jordan Sheppard


Collegiate Players:Grady

Abbey Sharpe – Drury University

Martin Tabler – University of Arkansas-Ft. Smith

Caleb “C Mac” McReynolds – Harding University

Rob Hodous – University of Texas-Tyler

Varun Shah – University of Charleston

Colton Cheek – John Brown University