October 29, 2023 – (left to right) Maureen Porter, Karen Materick, Louise Burnison, Molly McGinnis, Tracy Richards, Angela Lukas, Abigail Emerson, Nancy Cushing, Tracie Wilcox, Ann Murtaugh, Rachel Corrough, Jennifer Langtry and Colleen Stover of the Midwest section came in second place in the Adult 40 & Over 4.0 Women League National Championship at the Barnes Tennis Center in San Diego, California.

By Jeff Vorva

For years, Colleen Stover had been a proud spectator of her daughter, Shannon.

Shannon Stover is a tennis player, and Colleen was with her just about every step of a storybook journey, including in 2022 when the senior helped Hinsdale Central win an Illinois High School Association state championship in Class 2A by teaming with Abigail Gamba to take fifth place in doubles, which scored some valuable points for the Red Devils.

One year later, the situation was reversed. Shannon is a club player at Notre Dame, and in the fall of 2023, she was able to faithfully stream some matches of her mother in action on the court as Stover and a small army of area women took second place in the United States Tennis Association Women’s National 40 and over 4.0 tournament Oct. 27-29 at the Barnes Center in San Diego.

“She was super excited about watching me do this, especially after her great year at Central winning state,” Colleen said of Shannon. “She was very enthusiastic about following all of the matches and following them online.

“It’s the highest level of tennis I ever played.”

– Colleen Stover on the USTA national tournament

“Why not let the moms have a little bit of fun?” And fun they had.

Well, until they got home. “After those two days in San Diego, I was exhausted,” Colleen said. “It’s the highest level of tennis I ever played.”

The team practices out of the Oak Brook Tennis Center. Stover, from Hinsdale, is joined by Elmhurst’s Nancy Cushing, Louise Burnison, Crystal Leighton, Ann Murtaugh, Jennifer Peterson, and Tracie Wilcox.

Also on the team were Clarendon Hills’ Margaret Chung and Maureen Porter, Addison’s Angela Lukas, LaGrange’s Rachel Currough, Glen Ellyn’s Abigail Emerson, Jennifer Langtry, and Molly McGinnis, Wheaton’s Tracy Richards, and Western Springs’ Karen Materick.

Lukas and Cushing are co-captains, and Lukas spent the past five years crafting the team. “For the past few years, we made the playoffs but could never make it to nationals,” Lukas said. “But this was the team that broke through, and we did very well. I had a feeling this could be the team that would make it to nationals. We had the best time and created lasting memories.”

According to Lukas, there were 2,700 teams and 45,000 women at the 40-over, 4.0 level. By the time it was over, the local team, which was named the Midwest/Lukas team, made it to the final match, where it was blanked by the Southern/Diaz team of North Carolina, 4-0, in the championship. To get to the title game, Midwest/Lukas beat Southern California/Wells 3-1 in the semifinals.

“It was a couple of matches a day, and the nationals were outside,” Stover said. “We maintained that we were a little bit of a disadvantage because we were used to playing inside. We’re an indoor team. We were not used to staring into the sun. The tournament was intense and amazing. Even when we watched other matches, there were long points and great shots.”

“Our matches are typically indoors,” Lukas said. “Playing outside is very different as the conditions of wind, sun, and dusk are not what we are used to.”

But they still did well.

Prior to the nationals, the team enjoyed success in the Chicago District, the Northern Illinois League, and the Regional/State and Sectional/Midwest. The bad news for the team is that it must break up.

The players can either move up to the 4.5 division or opt to break up the team because the rules state teams qualifying for the nationals need to take a year off from competing in the same division. Thus, this dream team that Lukas put together will split up for 2024 as she seeks new players.

But for now, the memories of a second-place finish in the nation will get them through the winter. “We have great players and are all good friends,” Lukas said. “That’s what made it so special.” ■

The Midwest/Lukas team pose in San Diego during their run in the USTA Nationals.