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State junior tennis team champs to be crowned

CJTP championships this weekend at Tennis Center of Camden

Posted: July 9, 2018 3:19 p.m.
Updated: July 10, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Photo courtesy of Wendy Kingsley/

CAMDEN’S TAYLOR KINGSLEY is part of the 12 and under team from the Camden Junior Tennis Program playing in this weekend’s USTA South Carolina Junior Team Tennis State Championships at the Tennis Center of Camden.

Before the first racket smacked a ball across one of its nets, the Tennis Center of Camden had already secured its first major tournament.

This weekend, the fledgling facility located along Campbell St. in Camden, will play host to the 2018 United States Tennis Association of South Carolina’s Junior Team Tennis State Championships. The decision by the organization to conduct the event at a first-year center is a feather in the TCC’s cap.

Camden will host the event, which was previously held in Florence, for both 2018 and 2019. The city and tennis center won the right to bring some of the Palmetto State’s best young tennis talent to town after having won a bidding/selection process.

“With Camden, it was really about the amenities,” said Emily Allen Russell, the USTASC’s director of marketing and communications. “There are so many shops, retail and restaurants; there is just so much to do that is so close to the tennis facility. We were very impressed and are excited to hold it there.”

As of Monday, 30 teams and between 200 to 210 players were pointed toward Camden for the event. The figure does not include parents, family and friends who will travel to the tournament which should provide an economic windfall for the community this weekend.

The co-ed teams of six players will play a round-robin format of singles, doubles and mixed doubles in the 10-, 12-, 14- and 18-year-old age divisions with the winners advancing to the Southern State Championships in Rome, Ga. The 14 and 18 age group champions in Rome will then earn a berth in the USTA Nationals in Orlando, Fla.

Included in the field, which opens play Friday afternoon and continues through Saturday at both the CTC and the Roger Smoak Tennis Courts at the Camden High Athletic Complex off nearby Ehrenclou St., will be players from Camden and Lugoff along with teams from Anderson, Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, Greenwood, Bluffton, Lexington, Saint George and Sumter/Florence.

The state-of-the-art TCC, a facility which features 16-lighted tennis courts and along with a dozen Pickleball courts, had its ribbon-cutting ceremony in mid-February. Not lost in the center’s ability to attract a tournament such as the junior team state tournament is the working relationship between CTC facility director Paola Maoli and the USTASC.

Maoli came to Camden after having served as the tennis coordinator with the Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center. Her vast experience working with and having been a part of USTASC-sanctioned tournaments was instrumental when the CTC was chosen to host this weekend’s event.

Russell said in the days, weeks and months leading up to the tournament, she and members of the USTASC staff have traveled to and from Camden on several occasions to make sure everyone associated with the event is on the same page. Russell said everything and everyone is a ‘go’ for this weekend.

“It’s been wonderful. We have worked with Paola at the tennis center and we have worked with the city of Camden. We really have had an amazing time,” she said. “I can’t think of any road blocks or anything that has come up to make it difficult or, that would be a concern for us. Everyone has worked together very well.”

With those associated with the running of the event all on the same page, all that is left is to make this a safe and memorable experience for the players and their families. In order to make sure that happens, Target Distribution Center in Lugoff has donated a giant tent, equipped with fans, for players to sit under. The USTASC will also have several misting tents for relief from the heat. There will also be plenty of water stations located on the grounds while a certified athletic trainer, courtesy of CORA physical therapy, will be on site during the tournament to tend to any possible ailments.

Participating in a tournament which carries a state championship along with it, brings out the best in the players.

“They are very excited,” said Russell, who is working her second Junior Team Tennis State Championship tourney. “The players range in age from seven years old to 18 years old. Some of these younger kids compete in and win their local leagues in their areas and then, they compete in a state tournament against other teams … it’s a positive and fun atmosphere but it’s also a fun atmosphere. It really is a great opportunity.”

With high school tennis teams which, traditionally, have played their way into the South Carolina High School League playoffs in the spring and fall, tennis has enjoyed a long history of success in and around Camden and Kershaw County. Now, Russell said, the area is exploding especially in the junior tennis ranks. This weekend will provide a test not only for county players but those throughout the state while, at the same time, offering the community a chance to show off away from the tennis court.

“It is so exciting. We have really seen tennis grow, a lot, throughout Camden over the past several years,” Russell said. “The facility is beautiful. We are very excited not only to host it there but also, to bring in these families from around the state to not only see the facility in Camden, but everything Camden has to offer.”

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