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Team members Sensi Graves, Jen Dillard, Craig Pearce (coach), Tonia Farman, Colleen Carroll and Bailey Gaspar pose after winning first place at the USTA Women’s 18-plus Area Tennis Tournament in Richland, Wash., on March 1.

Hood River Women’s Tennis Team 2.5 competed and took first place in the USTA Women’s 18-plus Area Tennis Tournament Sunday, March 1 in Richland, Wash. Coached by Craig Pearce, Sensi Graves, Jen Dillard, Tonia Farman, Colleen Carroll, Bailey Gaspar and Bernie Von Borstel formed the team as a way to decompress from their daily occupations.

“We all are members of the Columbia Gorge Sports Club,” Dillard said. “So, we formed a team. The team is all newbies. We registered to play in the tournament in the Tri-Cities, thinking maybe we would have a good time, but we ended up sweeping it and it’s kind of crazy.”

Tennis experience ranges from high school play, childhood sports, and some have been playing for a few weeks.

“We’ve got successful business owners on our team and it’s just so cool to see us work hard and play hard,” Dillard said. Graves is a professional kite boarder and owner of Sensi Graves Bikini, Carroll is also a professional kite boarder, Dillard owns Jen Dillard Real Estate and Farman owns Queen of Hearts Hemp Health in Hood River.

Team members previously knew each other through kids or work, but not significantly. The competition in Tri-Cities, however, brought each other closer and created a bond.

“We were so nervous but also excited to play,” Dillard said. “We had no idea what our competition was going to be like. We were pleased to find everybody that we played was so nice even from the other clubs. People were just really nice, and we enjoyed meeting them and playing with them. One of the captains from the other teams pulled our coach aside and said, ‘How is that everybody from Hood River on your team is so nice?’ It’s great to represent Hood River in such a good light.”

Since the team was formed for leisure competition, there was no impending pressure to win, Dillard said.

 “We all plan to train (for sectionals) weekly, multiple times a week, until the tournament and play as many games as we can and gear up,” Dillard said. “We’re excited and we’re up for the challenge now that we know what we’re dealing with. We’re excited to really train, get out there and win.”

Their performance earned them a spot in the Sectional Championships on Aug. 7-9. Winners of earn the opportunity to represent the Pacific Northwest at the National Championships Oct. 9-11 in Las Vegas.

“Yeah, it was intended to be kind of like a fun thing to do every once in a while, but we’ve just gotten so into it,” Dillard said. “I’m a business owner, a mom and a wife and I do all of those things and I kind of forgot about myself and how I like to have fun too. So, it’s been so good for me.”

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