Senior Doubles League state titles are up for grabs this weekend, and area players are in the hunt.
Starting Friday, Westin Innisbrook Resort's 3.5 and McMullen's 3.0 women's teams join Phil Green Tennis Academy's 3.5 and Countryside Country Club's 3.0 men's teams in a three-day battle for state bragging rights and the opportunity to compete in national championships.
"Our team is strong, has depth and we're full of enthusiasm," Innisbrook captain Sue Luidens said. "The best thing about our team is that we're all team players, and we do what's best for the team."
Luidens and 12 teammates will fill three doubles positions each match. That in itself can be a challenge, but Luidens has a plan.
"I have an idea on who will be playing, and I've asked the others on the team who they think would play best," Luidens said, "and what I plan to do is use the input from the team, analyze our competition and then come up with a lineup."
This year the 3.5 women's division has three flights of teams, and Innisbrook is in a flight with four others. That means the squad first plays four matches in a round robin within the flight to determine the team to advance to the semifinal round. After the three teams (one from each flight) are determined, a wildcard team will be chosen based on overall record for the fourth team.
"We're ready for a win, and I think if we have total concentration, we can," Luidens said. "With the depth and strength we have on this team and if we focus, no one can beat us."
Innisbrook plowed through local competition, winning all 10 matches and winning 26 of a possible 30 doubles positions. Joining Luidens are Shirl Ahrens, Josie Doucette, Debra McGinley, Cheryl Cravener, Phyllis Gary, Maureen Sternberg, Anne Hammond, Dale Slive, Shirley Palmer, Judy Warner, Bonny Boosales and Kay Fitzpatrick.
Joe Gari, captain of the Phil Green Tennis Academy squad, thinks he has a score to settle at the 3.5 senior championships. Disappointed with his team's finish in the Super 70 State Championships last month, Gari hopes the PGTA squad fares better this weekend.
"It was disappointing then in that we lost Dick Lashley due to a surgery, and now Ron Lynn hasn't played for a couple of months due to shoulder injury," Gari said. "We'll see as this week goes on how they'll be able to play for us over the weekend."
The men's PGTA team will be in a mix of three flights with the same format as the women's to determine the final four teams.
Gari plans to go with Carlo Mugavero and David Parris in No. 1 and would normally place Lynn and Lashley in No. 2. Depending on their ability to play, Gari may enter John Kuhn and John Colaneri in the No. 2 slot and position himself with Ed McGinley in No. 3.
"We'll know more after this week, as far as Dick's play," Gari said. "In No. 1, Carlo and Dave complement one another's play and have done well together. I have confidence in that whoever they face they can hold their own.
"John Kuhn and John Colaneri are a very strong team and can beat the best of teams on any given day."
Even though handicapped with a near-minimum number of players and couple of questionable ones, Gari recalls a team some years ago that played to the championship with just five players.
"That team had to default a position every match they played, and they still won the whole thing," Gari said. "So, I know it can be done, even if the odds aren't necessarily on your side."
CELEBRATE: The Suncoast Tennis Foundation is joining in the celebration of USA Tennis Month with a free USA Tennis Rock and Rally event May 22. Players and non-players are invited to attend the 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. event at Westfield Shoppington Countryside (formerly Countryside Mall) for hands-on, interactive activities for all ages and levels. A variety of prizes are available along with information on area opportunities.
COMING UP: The Train Smart Tennis Super Series begins Saturday in Tampa for juniors 18 and younger. Call Alan Williams, 813 962-4253, today to enter. Innisbrook offers its High Intensity Tennis Camp for juniors starting weekly May 24. Call Jim Hord, (727) 942-5241. East Lake Woodlands hosts the 14th annual Morton Plant Mease Fundraiser Tennis Tournament May 28-31. Men's, women's and mixed doubles in 3.0, 3.5, 4.0 and open divisions are available. Call (727) 785-2212 or e-mail MPMTennis@aol.com The USA Tennis Florida Combo League starts for women May 25 and for men June 5. Interested teams should contact league coordinator Norm Ott, (727) 526-7966. Zephyrhills Tennis Association is offering free lessons for ages six to 14, July 12-16 at the Zephyr Park tennis courts. For details call (352) 518-9380.