Local Women Swing Their Tennis Racquets All the Way to Nationals

November 11, 2013 

Pictured from left: Sandy Pietroburgo, Geri Burnworth, Cindy White, Anne Muren (captain), Sharon Vance, Kristy Reams, Libby Stiegman (captain), and Jackie Burwitz. Teammates not pictured: Lis Brown, Carolyn Cleveland, Renae Harbert, Lena Woltering, Karen Marshall, Donna Davinroy and Annette Schroeder.

Nearly a dozen Metro East women recently joined each other for a trip to Tucson, Ariz., but it wasn’t in the name of shopping or sightseeing. Instead, they had their tennis racquets in hand and ready to take a swing at bringing home a USTA National Title.

The Anne Muren-Libby Stiegman 3.0 women’s team from St. Clair Tennis Center in O’Fallon won the Missouri Valley District in May of this year at Creve Coeur Racquet Club in St. Louis, and then proceeded to the USTA Missouri Valley Sectional Championship in Des Moines, Iowa in August. There, they beat Oklahoma, Kan., and Iowa for the title.

As they advanced so did their opportunities with an invitation to compete for the USTA National Title in Tucson. They boarded airplanes, accompanied by some close family and friends, and successfully played their hearts out to place in the Top 10 out of 17 teams in the nation. The group’s advisor is Bob Keefe, Belleville West High School’s girls’ head tennis coach.

According to Muren, co-captain of the local women’s team, this Metro East group is the first Illinois 3.0-level ladies team, as far back as public records go, to attend the USTA Nationals.

The team consisted of Geri Burnworth, Cindy White, Muren, Sharon Vance, Kristy Reams, Stiegman (co-captain), Jackie Burwitz, Lis Brown, Carolyn Cleveland, Renae Harbert, Lena Woltering, Karen Marshall, Donna Davinroy and Annette Schroeder.

“We are a group of moms, wives, sisters, and daughters with professions ranging from accounting, investment banking, teaching, to non-traditional college students,” Stiegman said. “Playing together has always been our way to take a break from all those commitments, get a good cardio workout, and have fun cheering each other on. Going to Nationals was never on our minds.”

Muren said the initial invitation to Nationals caught the entire team off guard. The women knew they had done well at Sectionals, but heading to Nationals was something unheard of from players in the St. Louis Metropolitan area. In fact, only 4,000 of 200,000 women players age 18 and older nationwide make it to Nationals, Muren said.

“Our team is just a group women who started playing for a good physical workout and fun,” Stiegman said. “I had never played tennis before age 35; many members of the team hadn’t when they began. We work hard and play four to five times a week, but to go this far and be what I call ‘newcomers to the game’ is quite an accomplishment.”

While only eight players participated in Sectionals, 11 made the jaunt to Nationals, including one player who detoured away from a vacation with her husband to get her game on.

“We researched the event, its traditions, and competing teams thoroughly before we left,” Muren said. “One of the traditions is to exchange hospitality gifts. One of our players works for Energizer, so she prepared cute bags filled with ‘St. Louis goodies’, including a stuffed Energizer Bunny. It was a blast, but don’t get me wrong, playing against such talented teams from across the U.S. was grueling. I don’t think any of us relaxed until the final evening where we danced until midnight at a party.”

The ladies work hard on and off the court as a team by raising funds for charities, such as the Belleville Area Humane Society and Breast Cancer Awareness, and just being there for each other, as good friends do, through thick and thin.

“As women, we tend to take too much on in general, and often lose sight of how valuable we are. This tennis season and our achievements gave us self-esteem, confidence, and many wonderful memories. This was a once-in-a-lifetime deal that will stay in our minds and hearts forever.”

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