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National titles in reach for local teams

Published September 27, 2006

Two adult women's teams leave this week with hopes of returning with a USTA Adult League National Championship. McMullen's 5.0 women's squad of five is among 16 in Palm Springs, Calif., and Countryside Country Club's 3.0 team of 10 will challenge among 17 in Tucson, Ariz. The hard-court competitions are Sept. 29-Oct. 1.

McMullen faces the USTA section Southern in its opening match of one singles and two doubles. Two matches the next day, against Missouri Valley and Northern, will determine if it advances to the semifinals.

"I think we may be somewhat of a darkhorse in the sense that we haven't competed at a 5.0 national," said Sue Gutierrez of St. Petersburg. "We're deceptive, though, because we all get a lot of balls back."

A second-place finish nationally at the 4.5 level in 2003 included the majority of this year's team.

Gutierrez grew up playing tennis as a junior in Southern California, competed for the University of California at Irvine and played professionally her senior year. For the past 10 years, Gutierrez has taught for St. Petersburg and assists with programs at the Renaissance Vinoy. Her partner, Gail Gibson, considers Gutierrez the smartest player on the team.

"Sue is our best player and is the best net player," Gibson said. "Sometimes we're a little slow to get started, but we always get it going. Sue doesn't miss much and she sets me up. She's equally as good in singles as doubles, and with just the five of us, she may need to play singles."

Gibson, who grew up in South Bend, Ind., came to Florida as a junior in high school to train at the Bollettieri Tennis Academy. Gibson competed for the University of Miami.

The designated singles player is Margaret Roset, formerly O'Grady, who grew up in St. Petersburg, played for St. Petersburg High and the University of South Carolina. Roset's resume includes a top-10 junior player, a high school state champion her senior year and competing for a top 20-ranked Gamecocks college team.

"While I was getting into my career, I went to South Florida for my masters and started working as a financial consultant. I didn't play for about 10 years," Roset said. "When Anh Thu called me to play, I hadn't played at all for two years, from the time I became pregnant. I said I'd do her a favor and play the singles and I'm so glad I did. I've been out of tennis so long, I have no idea what the competition will be like. On any given day, though, we have a good chance."

The team's captain is Anh Thu Burks of Land O'Lakes. A former top-ranked junior player from Ohio, Burks did not play college tennis but started competing again when she came to the area to work in applied research for Nielsen Media Research.

Burks will pair with Clearwater's Kim Cashman. They pride themselves on good returns and their ability to track down balls.

"Any national competition is always a huge challenge," Cashman said. "We had an abbreviated season, so it's hard to know where we stand, but we'll go and do our best. We have a good team, so we plan to go, play hard and have some fun."

Countryside faces USTA sections Intermountain and Southern California its first day, followed by Northern California and Mid Atlantic. Countryside players include captain Lisa Pratt, Rachel Mayhew, Joyce Hall, Kim Rega, Jil Colen, Gillian Irving, Pam Collins, Mary Guthrie, Catherine Kelly and Mona Lee.

Follow the championships on

NET SHOTS: Treasure Bay, Florida's state champion in the 18-and-under co-ed intermediate Junior Team Tennis division, held a fundraiser/mixer for its upcoming trip to the USTA Team Tennis National Championship in Tucson, Ariz., next month. The event raised $1,800 for the Oct. 20-22 event.

Players include Alex Saxman, Jessica Cox, Mary Wynne, Michael Koppleman, Robbie Nichols, Simone Berger, TJ Holdstein and Tyler Windschauer. Treasure Bay tennis director Phil Girardi is the team's coach. Anyone wishing to assist the team should call Girardi at 368-0882.

* Kevin Manning will compete on the men's 45-and-older intersectional team to represent Florida in this weekend's USATA Intersectional Championships in Jackson, Miss.

* Second seeds Rebecca Bodine in the girls 18-and-under, Laura Ospina in the 14 and unseeded Carolina Barnett in the 12 collected singles titles in this month's Clearwater Fall Championships.

* Recording singles championships in this month's East Lake Woodlands Fall NTRP were Sharon Dehnel in the women's 4.0, Rena Khawam (3.5) and Justin Larue in men's 3.0. Doubles winners in the state-sanctioned event included Janet Matthews and Kim Tran in women's 4.0, Khawam and Denise Simon (3.5), Stacey Foster and Cynthia Sloyer (3.0) and Craig Emery and Will Mashburn in men's 4.0.

* Singles winners in this month's SPTC Adult Classic Championships at the St. Petersburg Tennis Center include Danielle Collins in the women's open, Juan Segovia in the men's 35-and-older and Ralph Howe (65). Jackie Keller and Liz Leigh won the women's 45 doubles.

COMING UP: The Bardmoor Battle for junior singles players begins Saturday at Bardmoor Golf and Tennis Club. Call 391-2205.

[Last modified September 27, 2006, 06:42:14]

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