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For Sharks, pushing each other lifted team to a higher level

Published April 19, 2007


SPRING HILL - Looking back, Nature Coast coach Louise Downey can only liken this tennis season to a roller-coaster ride. Up one day; down the next.

"I'm just glad the roller coaster decided to stop on top when it mattered," Downey said.

The Sharks' best high so far was winning the Class 2A, District 6 title Tuesday. They advance to play in the regional tournament, which will be held at Citrus at 3 p.m. Friday.

It was a rocky season for the Sharks because lineups never were certain. That's mostly because the returning players wanted a chance to challenge each other on a weekly basis. Last season, the Sharks settled into their assigned rankings. They went undefeated in districts, but there was a feeling of complacency and then disappointment when the Sharks finished second in the district tournament.

Senior Sara Paradis, who won the No. 5 singles district title, said the challenges helped the team prepare for the district tournament.

"It got us ready because during the challenge matches, it made you really nervous," Paradis said. "There was a lot riding on that situation, so you had to learn how to play with pressure."

Nature Coast also wasn't sure it would have Olivia Williams, who left the team for a bit to throw the shot put for the track team. Ultimately the freshman, who won the No. 3 singles title in district play Tuesday, missed tennis and returned.

LOS GEHTS: When German exchange student Simone Berger joined the Hernando squad this season, the junior was shocked to find her teammates cheering loudly for one another.

In Germany, "you're not allowed to cheer," Berger said. "The people clap their hands but that's about it."

But with the Leopards, enthusiasm comes standard. So Berger shared her German version of "Let's go" - "Los gehts" - with her doubles partner Alison Steiner. Often the duo, which earned a berth to Monday's state tournament, share the saying. It gets them pumped up.

Berger also is advancing to the state tournament as the 2A-6 No. 1 singles winner. Berger grew up playing tennis in Taunusstein, Germany. But this is the first time she's played with a team, and she loves it.

"We don't have school sports in Germany," Berger said. "So it's fun to do sports here."

Kellie Dixon can be reached at or 352 544-9480.

[Last modified April 18, 2007, 21:24:02]

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