Mountain Empire Men's 3.5 team rules state tournament   

By Rebecca Pierson
Assistant Sports Editor
rpierson@starhq.com

  After electing to put more zip in its game, the Mountain Empire Tennis Association Men's 3.5 Social Tennis team won this year's state tournament and competed in the sectional tournament.
  The team consists of players from throughout the Tri-Cities area. They have gone to the state tournament three times in the past five years but never made a strong showing.
  The tournament consists of two singles and three doubles matches. Last year, team captain Jim Farmer said they would have been happy to win just one of their matches. But after the first two tries at state, Jim asked the other team members whether they were happy just competing in the tournament or if they wanted to become more competitive.
  The team decided that they wanted to compete at a higher level. They dropped around half of their players to seek out other players who were just as competitive as they were.
  "They wanted to be more competitive, so we beefed the team up," Farmer said. "In the regular M.E.T.A. adult league play, we had 10 matches and won nine of them. We won our league. This time, we were going down to state to be more competitive but we wanted to just have fun."
  Fun for this group of guys consisted of playing major metro-area teams such as Memphis, Chattanooga, Knoxville and Nashville. Their first match was against Memphis and they defeated them 4-1. The Chattanooga, Knoxville and Nashville matches all three came down to a 3-2 decision. The second-place team was Knoxville with a 3-1 record.
  The team was missing its No. 1 singles player (Osman Mian) at the state tournament, but still managed to pull out undefeated.
  That 4-0 state record sent them to the sectional tournament in Columbia, South Carolina last week. The sectionals consist of nine southern states. Kentucky won in their division.
  "We had a respectable showing for the first time going down there," Farmer said. "Even though we didn't win, a 2-3, 2-3, 2-3, 1-4 record wasn't that bad. For the first time down, we were in there. We had tie breakers, where it could have swung either way, but unfortunately it just didn't swing in our favor."
  "The whole team is a great bunch of guys," he said. "None of them are so egotistical that they are playing for themselves. They play for the team. When we came up against Kentucky, it was like a buzzsaw. They were good. The best we could do with them was one win. We were lucky to get a couple of games. It was tough."
  The social league plays at the Liberty Bell Tennis Complex in Johnson City every Tuesday until the winter from 6-9 p.m. The open play is free to anyone who wants to play, and balls and refreshments are also provided.