20 years of tennis: 2 volunteers a mainstay of Family Circle Cup - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

20 years of tennis: 2 volunteers a mainstay of Family Circle Cup

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By Josh Benser

DANIEL ISLAND, S.C. (WCIV) -- The green clay courts at Family Circle Cup have their own rhythm, like a metronome, from racket to court and back again. Players grunt. Shoes slide and scratch. The volley builds to a crescendo; spectators suspend their breathing until the ball drops. And when it does, a collective exhale and cheering resounds from the Daniel Island stadium.

This is the buzz, the excitement that brings the best female players in the world, the crowds, and volunteers like Joyce Albrecht and Holly Nichols back to Charleston every year.

"Each year, when I leave, I say I won't come back. This is going to be my last year," says a smiling Albrecht. 

A retired Chicago-area gym teacher with a grin that seems to say she's pulled a fast one on you, Albrecht is volunteering for the 20th year. It's around Christmas when she gets an email, a newsletter, or a flier planting the seed of temptation that calls her back. The memories of bone-chilling rain, sore feet and long days are somehow forgotten.

What she remembers are the laughs and companionship. She recalls a prank she pulled few years back on her friend and 19-year volunteer, Holly Nichols. Nichols had been tasked with sweeping a floor in a trailer. 

"I'm not much for the cleaning thing to begin with," says Nichols, "I would sweep the pine straw out, leave and come back to more pine straw!"

The two erupt into laughter, interrupt one another and finish sentences where the other left off. 

There are more than 500 people from eleven states that volunteer at the week-long tournament. Both Albrecht and Nichols love tennis and started volunteering after responding to help wanted ads in the newspaper two decades ago. That's when the tournament was still being held in Hilton Head, S.C. and some of it's current contenders were wearing diapers and drinking from bottles.

It was on a smaller scale then, hauling in portable metal bleachers and making site preparations only few days before the first serve. Their jobs have changed over the years, but they say what hasn't is the outstanding organization of the event and great treatment of it's volunteers.

Albrecht is "the ears." She carries a walkie-talkie and does her best not to butcher Eastern European names. Nichols works in guest services which puts her out front doing a variety of jobs including taking phone calls from a man who called several times five days before the final requesting to know who would win. She finally told him she'd be in Las Vegas if she knew.

He never called back. 

"Before the tournament moved to Charleston, I was the lead volunteer. As of now, I'm second. So if that person leaves, I'll be in charge again," says Albrecht. 

Nichols chuckles and rolls her eyes, "Oh no, not again, now I'm not coming back!"

There is a board outside of center court that has the names of all the volunteers and the number of years they have willingly put in dealing with big crowds, sometimes inclement weather, and extended hours. Albrecht and Nichols are not listed among the rest. Their names are at the top of the sign, in bold green letters.

They stand out.

Within that list of names below them,  there are undoubtedly more creating great stories and lifelong relationships that they volunteered for.

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