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League attracting many competitors

© St. Petersburg Times
published December 4, 2002

USA League Tennis is in full swing with action this weekend in senior men's doubles, senior women's doubles and mixed doubles in adult and senior divisions.

In all, 27 senior men's teams are divided into three playing levels, 19 senior women's in two levels, eight adult mixed in two levels and five senior mixed squads.

For many players, league schedules make playing simple with prearranged opponents, times and sites.

Competition for others is a means of relaxing after a day of work and other responsibilities.

The majority of players, say the leagues are fun, the social quality is an added feature and there always is the hope of qualifying for that coveted next level, perhaps even a trip to a national championship.

"Our team basically plays because we enjoy it and, despite our ages, we are still quite competitive," said Don Wheeler, captain of the Renaissance Vinoy 4.0 senior men's squad.

"We always strive to make it to the playoffs. We just missed getting to the district playoffs last year and hope to do better this year," he said.

Wheeler's group of nine opened the season in the 4.0 South division with 2-1 win over the Racquet Club of St.Petersburg and a 2-1 loss to Seminole Lake Tennis Center.

Scoring victories were Nga Duong and Don Mathias at No.1 and Patrick Dines and Covington Sharp against the Racquet Club. Duong and Mathias won in the No.2 slot against Seminole.

"This is just our second year in the 4.0 division," Wheeler said.

"Two years ago, this basic same team advanced to the senior 3.5 regionals, and some of us were then bumped up to 4.0. We're really just getting our feet wet in the 4.0."

Rounding out the Vinoy squad are Norm Ott, Richard Graff, Bruce Sadler and William Simmers.

The Vinoy, with a bye this week, will play McMullen II Dec.14 in Clearwater.

When George Pequignot and mixed doubles partner Hedy Hunyady had difficulty forming a team for the USA adult league, they changed home base.

This year, Pequignot captains an eight-player 7.5 senior mixed squad housed at Treasure Island Golf, Tennis and Recreation Center.

"I think we all play for the fun of playing while always trying to do our best," Pequignot said.

"We have a couple of other doubles teams like Diane and Roger Pryor that have played together for a long time."

The TI Rec squad opens this weekend against the Racquet Club of St.Petersburg.

Other TI Rec players are Charlotte Sterling, Brenda Freedland, Jerrie McCullough and Linda Riffe.

Micki Gelestor is no newcomer to USA League Tennis, and this season is no different.

Gelestor is playing on the 7.5 adult and senior mixed doubles teams at Bardmoor Golf and Tennis Club and the 4.0 senior women's squad.

This spring, Gelestor again will participate on the adult women's team at Bardmoor. The K-Swiss flex league rounds out her intense schedule.

"Tennis is definitely a stress release for me," Gelestor said. "I work five days a week and when I get off, I head to the tennis courts."

Gelestor is captain of the 7.5 adult mixed squad, which faces the Racquet Club this weekend in the season opener.

"We were in the playoffs two years ago in the 7.5, then moved up to 8.5," Gelestor said. "Last year, we probably won about half our matches in 8.5, but we're in the 7.5 this year.

"We have a lot of the same players from before, and many of those are also on the Bardmoor senior mixed team."

Joining Gelestor on Bardmoor's 7.5 adult team are her husband, John; Gale and Larry Nickerson, Angela and Tom Lincicome, Rhonda Thompson, Mary Jane Evertz, John Beda, Mike Carrigan and Les Spang.

NET SHOTS: Danielle Collins of St.Petersburg won the girls 10-and-under singles title in last weekend's Turkey Bowl Super Series at Cheval Country Club in Lutz.

Second-seeded Philip Barlow of Indian Rocks Beach captured the boys 16 crown. Tampa's Joel Samaha, who trains at Seminole Lake Tennis Center, was a finalist in the 14 division.

Collins added a second girls 10 singles title with a victory in the Thanksgiving Junior Championships in Bradenton.

St.Petersburg's Anthony Barrancotto was a finalist in boys 12, as was boys 14 No.1 Nicholas Smith of Tierra Verde.

Molly Smith, Tierra Verde, won the girls 10 consolation draw. Lauren Saltiel reached the 16 third round, and her younger brother, Alexander, played to the boys 10 quarterfinal.

Lindsay Dvorak is No.5 in the girls 12 class of the U.S. National Open Championships in Plantation.

Today in the South Pinellas Ladies Doubles League, Treasure Island Rec plays Shipwatch Blue and St.Petersburg Country Club faces the Vinoy in the first round of the 3.5-4.0 division playoffs.

Next week, SPCC plays host to TI Rec and the Vinoy meets Shipwatch Blue for the final round.

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