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Control is key for Pirates senior

Thanks to a new focus, Crystal River's Jennifer Rimes is in position to win No.1 singles championship.

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 20, 2003

CRYSTAL RIVER -- The little things bothered Jennifer Rimes.

Bad calls.

Bad shots.

If something went wrong during a match, she sometimes got angry and lost focus. Matches that should have been blowouts were close. And sometimes, her lack of concentration cost her victories.

"I used to get so frustrated that I'd beat myself up," Rimes said.

Not any more.

Today, the quiet Crystal River senior claims to be as reserved on the court as she is off. And entering the Class 2A, District 6 Tournament on Monday, Rimes is considered a top contender to win the No.1 singles title.

"She has played very well," Pirates coach Rich Tangeman said. "She's the anchor of our team."

Rimes' anger management came with a change of scenery. After spending three years at Lecanto, where she played a major role for the successful Panthers, Rimes transferred last fall to Crystal River for academics. The transition was smooth.

"I never fit in (at Lecanto)," Rimes said. "I'm so much happier now. This team is a lot more laid-back. (Losing focus) hasn't been a problem this year. I've really improved my consistency, and I'm staying calm during matches."

In return for Crystal River giving Rimes the relaxed atmosphere she said she craved, she has given the youthful Pirates the strong No.1 player they needed. Crystal River is 8-6, and Tangeman said the squad can give top-seeded Lecanto a run at districts.

"She not only has been counted on to win her matches all the time, but we count on her to show the younger players how a champion plays," Tangeman said.

"She has carried two burdens. She had to win and win in the right manner. The program is turning around, and she's one of the reasons. She's very helpful to the other girls."

Rimes went 12-1 as a freshman at No.5 singles and clinched the regional title in straight sets. The next year she was 14-0 for the Panthers and advanced to the second round at state. Rimes was the district runner-up at No.1 in 2002. She's 12-3 this season.

"Her technique is very good, and she's a confident player," Tangeman said.

More impressive to Tangeman is that Rimes had a sinus infection for three weeks during the regular season and missed just one match.

"She just couldn't play that day," he said. "She was throwing up. ... I don't think she would have lost any matches if she would have been healthy."

Rimes, who has a 3.9 GPA and plans to attend the University of Tampa next year, has her sights on finishing her prep career with a bang. A singles championship means a trip to state. By coincidence, districts are at Lecanto.

"I'm ready," Rimes said. "I want to win."

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