Bears set their sights on regaining top spotBy BRANT JAMES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 25, 2003
The run, perhaps, is over for Central. At least the unprecedented run of local and district success in which the Bears went 41-5 and won three district titles the past three seasons under coach Joe Nicolai.
After graduating its No.1, 3, 5 and 6 seeds last year and a sizable cache of talent in Jen Ales, Jane McDonald (who did not play tennis her senior year), Paula Nagarajan and Jessica Nicolai, the Bears return with two experienced players and a lot of hope to rebuild into the county's top team within two seasons.
"I still think we will be a very respectable team," Nicolai said. "We have some depth. It's just one of those wait-and-see-type things. I see a lot of promise for the future with all the new kids coming up."
Junior Shelane Etchison and senior Kacy Howard, who earned playing time in the lower flights the past two seasons, will be counted on to provide leadership and victories at Nos.1 and 3, respectively while the newcomers catch up.
COACH: Joe Nicolai.
2002 RECORD: 14-1, captured district championship.
KEY RETURNEES: Shelane Etchison, jr., No. 1; Kacy Howard, sr., No. 3.
LOSSES: Jen Ales, Paula Nagarajan, Jessica Nicolai, sr., Katie McCabe (not participating).
NEWCOMERS: Stephanie Kohls, jr.; Irene Cho, fr.; Stephanie D'Anna, so; Shaena Keefe, so.; Aspen Dukes, fr., Jennifer Gorman, fr.
SCHEDULE: FEB.: 25 -- at Crystal River; 27 -- Lecanto. MARCH: 4 -- at Springstead; 6 -- Crystal River; 10 -- Mitchell; 13 -- Citrus; 18 -- at Hernando; 20 -- Springstead; 26 -- at Ridgewood. APRIL: 1 -- at Lecanto; 3 -- at Land O'Lakes; 8 -- River Ridge; 10 -- at Clermont East Ridge.
COACH: Teri Sellers.
2002 RECORD: 14-5, second in district.
KEY RETURNEES: Katie Werner, sr., No. 1; Tara Sickler, sr., No. 2; Allison Solomon, jr., No. 3; Jill Matherly, so., No. 5.
LOSSES: Ellen Widboom (district champ at No. 3 singles, district champ with Katie Werner at No. 1 doubles); Kate Heinecke.
NEWCOMERS: Chelsea Clark, fr., LeAnn Christian, sr.
OUTLOOK: After finishing second in the district by a point the past two seasons, the Leopards must replace champion Widboom and major contributor Heinecke. But they return experienced players in Werner, Sickler and Solomon. Focus will be a key. "Sometimes we've not been the most focused team, but we had a lot of fun," Sellers said. "Now we're going to work on being a little more focused. Coach may not be as popular as she has been in the past."
SCHEDULE: FEB.: 25 -- at Lecanto. MARCH: 6 -- Lecanto; 11 -- Citrus; 13 -- at Hudson; 18 -- Central; 20 -- at Citrus; 24 -- Gulf; 25 -- at Springstead; 31 -- at Pasco. APRIL: 1 -- Springstead; 7 -- Pasco; 9 -- Zephyrhills; 15 -- at Crystal River.
COACH: Louise Downey.
KEY RETURNEES: Leah Garcia, sr., No. 1; Jenna Pescenka, jr., No. 2; Laura Heslin, sr., No. 4; Alison Levic, jr., No. 5.
NEWCOMERS: Krystal Heslin, fr., No. 2.
KEY LOSS: Michelle Gimbel.
OUTLOOK: Springstead's lineup may be stronger than it has been in years, with the experienced Garcia at the top and talented freshman Krystal Heslin helping offset the loss of Gimbel, who went undefeated through districts at No. 3. The Eagles, who had not won a match in ages against perennial power Lecanto, took one from the Panthers in their first meeting this season when Jenna Pescenka came from a set down to win at No. 2.
SCHEDULE: FEB.: 25 -- Citrus. March: 4 -- Central; 6 -- at Citrus; 12 -- Land O'Lakes; 13 -- Crystal River; 18 -- Lecanto; 20 -- at Central; 25 -- Hernando; 26 -- at Mitchell. APRIL: 1 -- at Hernando; 2 -- Ridgewood; 9 -- at Clermont East Ridge.
Brant James can be reached at (800) 333-7505, ext. 1407. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .
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