FAIRFIELD — They say they play for fun, and undoubtedly they do.
But members of the In-Shape: Fairfield Rancho Solano women’s 4.0 tennis team also play to win.
They dominated their Napa/Solano league with a 7-1 record in the regular season, then went 2-0 to win the league playoffs before going 3-0 to capture the district title in Roseville.
That earned them a spot in the sectional tournament to be held in the Carmel area on Friday and Saturday, with the championship match on Sunday.
“We are all players from this club (at In-Shape: Rancho Solano),” said team captain Monica Ravanello. “All players are members of the club. We did not recruit outside the club, which is unusual for USTA when you advance from playoffs and into district and beyond.”
It’s been a fun ride, one the players have enjoyed taking together.
“The majority of us are working moms, grandmothers some of us,” Ravanello said. “We are doing this for fun. This is our stress relief. We spent a lot of time on the tennis court, playing out points and having a good time.
“We’re cohesive. . . . We feel accepted. It’s only positive energy we bring to the court. Maybe we barely fed the kids, we barely had a chance to take a shower. We leave that behind. We shed all that for an hour and a half of fun on the court. It’s the sport of a lifetime – as long as our bodies hold up.”
Miles Bentley, Director of Tennis for Cliff Drysdale Tennis at In-Shape: Rancho Solano, has worked with the team and seen that togetherness.
“They’re a great team,” he said. “There’s great team chemistry on the team. They’re all great friends, which I think helps a lot.”
So does talent – and tenacity. In rolling to its 12-1 record, the team’s players are 51-14 in individual matches.
Of the 13 players on the roster, 10 have winning season records with Susan Dolan and Anne Ellis going 9-1 and 7-2 in singles, respectively.
Team co-captain Wendy Hertelou is 8-0 and Shelly Kontogiannis is 7-0. Other leaders are Sue Lee at 7-1, Bernice Adams at 6-1, Aynsley Foote at 5-1 and Stephanie Ross at 8-2.
“I think it’s the drive to get the job done,” Kontogiannis said. “Our matches are always close. You drive hard to take the extra mile, to get the set point.”
In-Shape: Rancho Solano opens the sectional play against Bay Club Santa Clara on Friday at Pebble Beach. On Saturday, it takes on Gold River Racquet Club at Chamisal Tennis and Fitness Club before meeting Moraga Country Club at Carmel Valley Ranch.
The team in their group with the best record moves on to Sunday’s finals at Pebble Beach with the winner moving on to the nationals in Tucson, Ariz., in November.
“I’m scared because I’m sure in (opponents from) the South Bay we’ll face players in their mid to late 20s,” said Ravanello, who describes her team as “40 plus.” “So they’re a lot younger in the legs than we are.”
But experience can be a plus if it helps In-Shape: Rancho Solano play its game.
“We need to play consistent, smart tennis and play the smart points, study our opponents,” Kontogiannis said. “We need to win the key points at key times of the match that set you up to win. Be aggressive, have energy and have fun.”
Regardless of what happens later this week, it’s been memorable run for the team.
“I’m really thrilled for the ladies,” Bentley said. “They play with good, competitive spirit. It’s a credit to them they made it sectionals. . . It’s a great achievement. It’s not an easy thing to do. They’ve done very well. They’ve all improved throughout the season.”
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.