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Standout Pirates gain from defeats

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 15, 2003

Losing isn't always bad.

That's the message Crystal River boys coach Vicki Browning delivered to standouts Chris Lavoie and Brian Wilkerson after each lost singles matches then were defeated in doubles by always-tough Mount Dora last week.

Browning purposely scheduled the match to give the Pirates a late-season test before districts, which are next Monday.

"They needed it," Browning said.

Lavoie, a sophomore who plays No. 1, was beaten in straight sets by Jordan Mead, falling to 10-1. Mead, among Central Florida's top talents, was the Class 2A runner-up last year in doubles.

Lecanto's Avash Rao is a solid No. 1, but with Citrus' Bret Feldman having been ruled ineligible by the Florida High School Activities Association, area competition is a little thin. Because of that, Lavoie rarely gets pushed.

"He took (the loss) well," Browning said. "He didn't play great, but (Mead) was very good. He's an exceptional player. Still, Chris could have played him closer."

Wilkerson fell to 8-3 at No. 2.

The doubles loss was their first.

NEW FEELING: Because the Citrus boys are young and inexperienced, coach Doug Patton has spent much of the season working on fundamentals.

"That's something they normally do on their own," Patton said. "It all boils downs to a lack of tennis skills. They haven't been taught fundamentals.

"Because our time is so short with the matches we play, you can't do a lot of teaching. Most teams' kids take private lessons, but none on my team do. It has been very difficult."

The result: a 4-9 record.

"It's not really what I was hoping they would do," Patton said. "I expected them to show a little more improvement."

The Hurricanes have been without Feldman, among the area's top players, for all but three matches. This season's struggles could be forgotten next spring. The squad has no seniors in the top five, and Feldman returns.

"I've talked to them and talked to them -- if they want to be competitive tennis players, they have to take lessons during the offseason and play some," Patton said.

BUILDING BLOCK: The Crystal River girls (7-6) have one senior (No. 1 Jennifer Rimes), which has first-year coach Rich Tangeman excited about the future.

"We're being helped in that we have at least three girls playing a lot of outside tennis," Tangeman said. "That's one of the secrets to having a solid program."

Rimes is 10-1. The Pirates also have gotten strong play from Brittney Broussard, Ashley Christie, Jillian DeRevere, Liz DeRevere and Scarlet McKethan.

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