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County standout may retire racket

After a stint in community college, Crystal River grad Chris Lavoie considers giving up competitive tennis.

By DAWN REISS
Published July 14, 2006


For years, Chris Lavoie's name has been synonymous with winning. A four-year state qualifier, Lavoie held Crystal River's No. 1 singles and doubles titles during his reign and is widely regarded as one of the best, if not the best player to grace Citrus County's courts.

But after a spring and summer semester at Central Alabama Community College, 19-year-old Lavoie may stop playing competitively, joining the workforce instead.

Lavoie said during a phone conversation from Alexander City, Ala., where he is attending summer school, he still "isn't 100 percent sure" what his decision will be.

His father, Jim, said he tried to talk his son out of the decision, but ultimately all he wanted him to do was try school, then make a decision.

"I think Chris has had enough tennis," his father said. "He doesn't want to be Chris Lavoie the tennis player any more. He's homesick. He wants to come back to Crystal River and start his adult life."

CACC coach Kathleen Thompson said she is disappointed by the prospect of losing Lavoie.

"He came to see me Monday and told me that it was a possibility," Thompson said. "He has gone back and forth through the spring. At the end of the season in May he told me for sure he wanted to come back and definitely be back, but then he came to see me Monday. I just don't know what he's going to do."

After not attending school the fall semester for what Lavoie's father calls "a private family matter," Lavoie came to campus in January.

Lavoie struggled at first with the transition. Inconsistency plagued the first half of the season.

"My game was on and off in high school," Lavoie said. "But in college you have to play 100 percent all the time, and if you have a bad game you've just got to get over it."

Slowly Lavoie, who played No. 4 singles and No. 2 doubles, retooled and refocused, winning six or so matches in a row.

"He gets easily frustrated or distracted," Thompson said. "Which was a problem when he got here. But his mental game really improved."

Lavoie, who finished the season with a winning record, helped Central Alabama CC at the NJCAA Division I National Tennis Championship in Plano, Texas, by winning his first match 6-2, 6-2 against Mesa CC's Brian Lockwood before losing 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 to Barton County CC's Chris Parish.

"At nationals, he did not lose his head," Thompson said. "He was confident and focused. If he could do that all the time he could be really successful, he's got the game."

Lavoie said he is happy with what he has accomplished at Central Alabama CC.

"It was good," Lavoie said. "This year was exciting. I was a little overwhelmed. It started off slow because I was getting used to college tennis and then I did phenomenal at nationals."

Lavoie's doubles partner, Spence Wise who will play at Alabama next year, said it was always interesting with Lavoie around.

"There never was a boring match," Wise said. "He's real energetic, yelling, 'Come on, let's go' on the court and stuff like that. Sometimes in practice he would just hit a shot as hard as could to get people on their toes instead of standing around.

"Coming from Florida we didn't think he would be so country," Wise added. "But he's one of the countriest guys I've ever met.

"All the girls on the tennis team thought he was going to be some beach bum. But he's just country, with the accent and Wrangler jeans, and all. There's nothing wrong with it, we just weren't expecting it. But he fit in really well and it was fun."

Lavoie said if he doesn't return to college he'd like to be an electrician and work at Progress Energy.

Dawn Reiss can be reached at (352) 860-7303 or dreiss@sptimes.com