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Wildcats tough, top to bottom

Undefeated Wharton and its five strong players will face their toughest challenge of the season at the Class 4A, District 5 tournament Monday.

By SCOTT PURKS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 14, 2002


TAMPA -- To get some perspective on how good and unselfish Wharton's boys tennis team is, go deep into its lineup. That's where you'll find senior Neil Allman, a solid No. 5 player who would play at No. 1 if he attended several other area schools.

But this is undefeated Wharton we're talking about, where getting the No. 1 spot is an extremely tough thing to pull off.

The Wildcats' official No. 1 player is sophomore Konstantin Lazarov, but on any given day he could lose to No. 2 Evan DuFaux, also a sophomore. When the two have played against each other the results have been close and mixed.

Allman, meantime, said he immensely appreciates his younger teammates, Lazarov and DuFaux, because of their abilities and their attitudes.

"When you get two guys on the same team that are that good, there could be some problems competing for that No. 1 spot," Allman said. "But we don't have any problems like that.

"Everybody gets along and pulls for everybody else and that goes from the top to the bottom. We really are a team."

A team that might be good enough to win a state title.

"I don't see why not," Allman said. "I can't imagine there are too many teams out there with the talent we have at all positions."

Indeed.

Wharton starts Frankie Castillo at No. 3 and Greg Fischer at No. 4, a couple of players Allman believed hadn't dropped a match all season.

For that matter, he couldn't think of any singles matches, except one of his own, that the starting five lost this year.

"We pretty much have taken care of business," he said.

Wharton was about to get its toughest test Friday when it faced undefeated Durant in the Western Conference final, but that match was scrapped because of rain.

On Monday, however, the Wildcats are expected to get all the challenge they could want.

The event is the Class 4A, District 5 tournament at the St. Petersburg Tennis Center, and the opponent causing the most concern is St. Petersburg High, which starts Alamgir Wali, a transfer student from Pakistan, as its No. 1.

Wali, undefeated and basically unchallenged this season, has been internationally ranked and has won several junior tournaments since arriving in the country eight months ago.

Wali's immediate goal, though, is an individual state championship, a priority he is putting ahead of a junior tournament in Canada this week.

"There will be other (junior tournaments)," Wali said. "If I don't play in the districts then I can't play in the state tournament.

"I want to win a state championship. I'm confident in the way I'm playing right now."

So is Lazarov.

He said he didn't know who Wali was, but he hoped to play him.

"If he is that good of a player then it should be a great challenge," said Lazarov, who turns 17 on Monday. "No, I don't know anything about him, but I guess we will find out."

-- Times staff writer Rodney Page contributed to this report.

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