Three Chopt edges Ridgetop for Autumn Cup

By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer

Three Chopt edges Ridgetop for Autumn Cup

For most of the past decade – or ever since Rob Johnston has been the director of tennis at the Henrico County facility – Three Chopt Recreation Association has been in the thick of the battle for what has become known as the Autumn Cup.

Avalon and Ridgetop dominated the first eight years of the team competition among area recreation clubs but Three Chopt made its presence felt shortly after entering for the first time in 2010, finishing second three straight years before beginning its four-year reign.

The most recent championship came during the weekend of Oct. 5-7 at Avalon Recreation Association.

Johnston’s crew jumped to an early three-point lead over the field of eight clubs after the first day and held on for a 87-86 victory over Ridgetop. Kanawha Recreation Association finished third with 82 points.

“I think this was the best Autumn Cup we’ve been involved in,” said Johnston. “All the clubs were incredibly good.”

So what has accounted for the domination by Three Chopt the past four years?

“There is some training involved,” said Johnston. “I coach them during some tiebreakers and I coach them during their matches preceding    the Autumn Cup. But we just have players that love to compete. They enjoy Autumn Cup and just flock to the event.

“The fact we all get along and, for the most part, everybody knows each other. The ones [who don’t know each other] befriended each other all weekend … got to meet each other. That’s one of the most important facets for us because we love spending time together.”

Three Chopt went 14-3 on the opening day, led by the 5.0 duo of Meth Kight and Kacie Painter, who were 2-0 for the weekend, while Kight added another two points when she played with newcomer Anne Hennessey.

“We just kind of held our ground on Saturday and Sunday,” Johnston said. “Avalon came on strong Saturday. Ridgetop was already there. On Saturday there were maybe five clubs that could have got [the title] on Sunday.”

The clincher for Three Chopt came when the women’s 8.0 number one team of Lynne Gibson and Kristin Tetterton edged the Ridgetop duo of Elle St. John and Barbara Hasslet 0-6, 7-6, 10-5 (in the tiebreaker).

Other teams that performed well all weekend were the two 7.0 men’s tandems (including David Kight and A.J. James), who were 6-0, and the 7.0 women’s duos that were 5-1. The 6.0 men’s team of Don Ha and Charlie Le were unbeaten.
“The top four or five teams that we had to beat, we came up strong,” said Johnston. “A lot of those matches were third-set breakers. And we dominated third-set breakers. I know we lost one or two but the ones that really meant something, we won.”

Former champion Avalon and Metropolitan Richmond Tennis Club tied for fourth with 80 points. Southampton Recreation Association was sixth with 67 points, followed by Bon Air Community Association (66) and Richmond Country Club (65).

There was one new line this year with the addition of 4.5 men’s teams.

“We all agreed this summer to not have any 4.5 men playing 8.0 men or 8.0 mixed,” said Johnston. “So we added the 4.5 men’s line. That made it 17 lines instead of 16 lines, and made it incredibly more dramatic and more difficult to win, in my opinion.”

Three Chopt’s fourth championship leaves them one behind Avalon in the overall Autumn Cup standings. Avalon won five of the first seven tournaments to determine the best recreation club in the area. Ridgetop has claimed three.

Perhaps it’s time to call Three Chopt a budding dynasty, or for them to try and move up to the Anthem Cup, which is contested annually between 12 of the area’s biggest clubs. ACAC of Midlothian is the big dog in that competition.

In order to qualify for the Anthem, Three Chopt would have to challenge and beat the 12th-place Anthem team. This year that was Midlothian Athletic Club, so Three Chopt would need to knock off MAC in a challenge duel early next year.

“There have been people here the last two years, and this is the most this year that we have had say, ‘Rob, we should try to challenge for Anthem,’” said Johnston. “That’s how we have to do it, challenge the last-place team this year.”

Who knows, maybe Three Chopt could put together a strong enough team to defeat the MAC players and move up to Anthem. It wouldn’t be easy by any means for Three Chopt, but it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility.