ACAC Continues Anthem Challenge Rule
During the first eight years of the city club challenge, Briarwood Swim and Racquet Club was the dominant team, winning six times. Then came the addition of four new clubs to the competition and a name change for the Chesterfield County outfit.
It was a lean decade for what has become known as ACAC (Atlantic Coast Athletic Club) of Richmond. Some close calls but no championships, as Westwood and the Country Club of Virginia (four each) captured most of the titles.
“There were a few years where we struggled,” said Jason Kinder, director of tennis at the club and captain of the ACAC team. “We came in second, third, you know, real close to the top but we just never quite got there.”
All that changed in 2011, when ACAC made a strong commitment to the annual affair and embarked on what is now a three-year winning streak in the Anthem Challenge.
Leading for most of the three-day competition at the Westwood Club, ACAC completed another run through the 12-team field. They finished with 113 points, four more than runner-up Salisbury Country Club.
“Three years ago, we just decided to be really fully committed to getting this,” said Kinder. “We’ve kept the same formula for the last three years. We take it very seriously and our members take it very seriously.
“Everybody at the club, from pros to players to management, is committed to winning this every year.”
Going into the final day, ACAC led Salisbury by three points (77-74). At one point late on Sunday afternoon, the teams were all even with 105 points. But a couple of victories in the 4.5 division all but wrapped it up for ACAC.
In the women’s 4.5 No. 2 doubles match, Stephanie Sowers and Jenny Scholtz edged a team from Burkwood in two close sets (7-6, 7-5) to give ACAC two valuable points, rather than one they would have earned by losing.
“They had some really strong players, really tough net players,” said Sowers. “We just made them miserable. We work like dogs and make tennis look really hard. But we ended up squeaking it out. We were very fortunate to win.
“We’re a fitness and tennis club, so the people that are there are there because they really love tennis. We just have a lot of strong players, a lot of players to choose from. A lot of inter-club competition and that makes everybody a little tougher.”
In the men’s 4.5 No. 1 doubles match, Dean Quayle and Chris Radke defeated a team from Midlothian Athletic Club, supplying another two points.
“I think it was 6-4, 6-3, but it was tougher than it looked,” said Radke, whose brother, Ryan, has been runner-up in the city tournament the past two years. “I knew going in that we had to make a lot of returns and make them play a couple extra balls.
“There’s a lot of team camaraderie [at ACAC]. I’m getting emails and we’re building each other up all the time.”
Salisbury’s runner-up finish was the second in three years for the Southside country club.
“I think we were 6-12 in third-set tiebreakers [during the competition],” said Scott Steinour, director of tennis at Salisbury and the team captain. “That killed us. We had three matches where we had match points and couldn’t convert.
“If we could have changed that around, we had a chance. But we had a great showing. Everyone played well, especially the last two days. We were in the lead [Saturday] for a little while. For the size club we have, we did very well.”
Coming in third was host Westwood (105 points), followed by CCV (104), Burkwood (103), Dominion Club and Willow Oaks Country Club (tied for sixth with 101), Woodlake Swim and Racquet Club and Midlothian Athletic Club (tied for eighth with 95), Raintree Swim and Racquet Club (94), Hermitage CC (86) and Midlothian Tennis Club (82).
“The great thing about ACAC is we’re able to replenish our membership, day to day,” said Kinder. “We’re constantly growing and that gives us an advantage over other clubs. Not that we’re any better than other clubs. It’s just the way our membership is set up.
“A lot of people excited about tennis see ACAC as a place that is affordable, a nice facility and we have a very active USTA program.”
All of that paid off in another Anthem Challenge title by the time the sun had set on Sunday.