A hard-earned trip to the top spot

Published February 22, 2007

HUDSON - For three seasons, Hudson junior Vanessa DeMauri has been leapfrogging.

But DeMauri's journey from the No. 5 spot on the team to No. 3 then No. 1 hasn't been just another picnic game.

"I've worked nonstop for the past three years to get where I am," said DeMauri, 1-1 this season. "But I'm ready to take it on, and it's what I want because that's what I worked so hard for."

DeMauri's work, most of which has been with the help of her father who trained her, hasn't gone unnoticed. After seeing DeMauri finish as district runnerup at Nos. 5 and 3 singles in 2005 and 2006, respectively, and winning the district title in No. 2 doubles, Cobras coach Doreen Grote said DeMauri deserves the No. 1 spot.

"Her hard work and effort over the past couple of seasons has lifted everyone on this team," the 16th-year coach said. "Everyone tries to step up like she did and challenge her, which makes everyone more competitive."

DeMauri admits her way to the top hasn't been easy.

"It's been hard," DeMauri said. "Any chance I got, I've trained. I've worked with the Saddlebrook coach, Lou Giglio, and with my dad. I just wanted to play and get better."

Though DeMauri says she still wants to improve her serves, Grote said she has grown more as a leader.

"Last year, she was more nervous and would second-guess herself," Grote said. "She has a whole new level of confidence, and she's playing even stronger out there.

"(She's added) maturity. She's grown to handle certain situations, where she can look at something and handle it better than she had. That's real leadership, because her experiences help all the other girls."

But other things have changed. DeMauri admits the No. 1 players at Wesley Chapel and River Ridge - senior Yumi Hasegawa and junior Kristen Greenup, respectively - will be a challenge. DeMauri also has a new doubles partner, senior Sarah Todd.

"We have a lot of the same playing style," Todd said. "Certainly, we play a very similar game. It's great playing doubles with her now because we have an idea (on the court)."

There is one more hurdle for DeMauri to leapfrog: a singles district title.

"I've been really working hard for a district title, and I think I finally deserve it," DeMauri said.

Said Grote: "There hasn't been anyone else who has worked as hard as she has. She's made the effort to play all year long. That, of course, is going to make her better, and she definitely deserves that."

Fast Facts:

Five Aces

Vanessa DeMauri, Jr., Hudson: After playing in numerous offseason tournaments, she moves to No. 1 from No. 3, where she was district runnerup in 2006. A district champion at No. 2 doubles, she was a runnerup at No. 5 singles in 2005.

Yumi Hasegawa, Sr., Wesley Chapel: For two of her three years with the Wildcats, Hasegawa has dominated the county. She went 15-0 and won her district in 2006, her first loss coming in the state semifinals to the player who eventually won the state title.

Paula Te, Sr, Land O'Lakes: She returns to No. 1 after going 5-6 in 2006, including 4-3 in conference play. The senior looks to make a strong run at districts, according to 14-year coach Mary Jane Reeves-Watson.

Kristin Greenup, Jr., River Ridge: In 2006, she had just two losses - to Hasegawa and Central's Jeanette McDonald - but fell short in the district finals. Greenup will be vital to the Royal Knights repeating as district champions.

Tamara Bustard, So., Ridgewood: Devotion to improving her game has moved her from No. 4 to No. 1 in just her second year of organized competition. Coach Joe Kelly said Bustard earned the nod by beating out the team's No. 2 player and because of her 11-4 record in 2006.