Shay Wali replaced his brother, Alamgir, at the top spot for St. Petersburg.
By LAURA LEE
Published March 4, 2004
ST. PETERSBURG - Nick Gallauer was lucky to get on court last season.
After spending a spring ranked at the bottom of St. Petersburg's ladder and playing sparingly in a season that saw the Green Devils make the state tournament, Gallauer vowed to come back and fight for the team's No. 2 position.
Sure, No. 1 would be nice, but he knew there was an incoming freshman who had already dibs on it.
Gallauer put in his time with summer tournaments and returned a much improved sophomore, just part of a young squad pushing to do a tad better than last year.
St. Petersburg's (6-0) goals aren't so ambitious. Coach Alan Turnquist said he'd be happy to do what the team did last year, win districts and regionals and compete at state.
But he'd also like to take the season one step further and go undefeated in the county. Last year, St. Petersburg's only regular season loss was to East Lake, a team the Green Devils haven't beaten in a while.
The Green Devils said goodbye to three reliable seniors, including state champion Alamgir Wali who is now playing at Stony Brook University in New York.
Wali was replaced at the top spot by another Wali, his younger brother Shay, who had been a sparkle in the Green Devils' eyes for sometime. Alamgir has said Shay is better than he was at his age, but isn't better than he is now. Still, before leaving for college, the older brother lost a couple of matches to the younger.
"Maybe he just did that to give me some confidence," Shay said. "It's kind of put pressure on me, but I guess I've got to do my thing, take it as a positive point and follow my brother."
Led by a freshman and a sophomore, the biggest thing lacking from this year's team is experience.
"The (seniors) wouldn't hesitate to pull a teammate by the collar and tell them to get serious," Turnquist said.
Where they lack in experience, they make up for it in confidence.
With Wali and Gallauer, Michael Brady and Zack Shirm, both returning juniors, and sophomore Satyan Sreenath, who's out for a few weeks with an injury, round out the Green Devils line-up.
"I think we're definitely a solid team," said Brady, who was a district champ from the No. 4 position last year. "When Satyan gets back there's going to be a lot of teams that won't match up with us."
St. Petersburg's top four are undefeated in singles play. Gallauer, who played three times last year, has played in every match this season for the Green Devils.
Turnquist said he's proven to be a strength for the Green Devils because last year the team didn't have a true No. 2 player.
"I barely ever played last year. I was really hoping to go for the No. 2 spot," Gallauer said. "I worked a lot harder than I used to. I came out more and worked on my footwork."
St. Petersburg's girls team will try to match the boys' success. As returning district champions with no losses this season, the girls are even stronger with sophomore Lakewood transfer Caitlin Jammo.
The Green Devils are looking forward a few weeks when they'll meet county power Palm Harbor U. March 15. They'll have to wait until April to face East Lake.