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Cobras to attack with athletes

By JAMAL THALJI

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 9, 2001


HUDSON -- Jamie Vargo's Cobras will be tough to beat on the tennis court this season. They'd also be pretty tough to beat on the basketball court, or any other kind of court.

For the Hudson coach will send basketball court standouts Nicole Warder and Nikki Prack to the tennis court this season, combining with No. 1 Cobra Jessica Franca to lead an impressive top five. "I think we have a lot of athleticism on our team this year," Vargo said. "I've been very fortunate that a lot of my basketball girls have been playing. They pick up the sport very quickly and they hustle, that's going to be the key.

"And I have girls who want to win, they will do just about anything to get to the ball. They won't just watch it go by them."

Franca will occupy the No. 1 position. Warder or Prack will start at Nos. 2 or 3. Kathleen Cook will be the No. 4 and the No. 5 slot is up for grabs between Sarah Swing and Michelle Griffin.

And how's this for a No. 1 doubles pair: Prack and Warder.

"Yeah, watch out," Vargo said. "(Prack) is very quick and she's picked up the game very well. She's my secret this year.

"Pairing Nicole and Nikki, I think they'll be unstoppable. They're both very intense and they don't like to lose and don't give up."

Franca and another player, possibly Cook, will form the second doubles tandem. With all this talent and experience, Vargo is definitely hoping to better last season's .500 record.

It all starts with Franca, the skilled junior who could emerge as west Pasco County's top player and challenge Wesley Chapel's Cristina Lucin and Zephyrhills' Courtney Dwyer for Sunshine Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors.

"She's got a good repertoire of different shots," Vargo said. "She's an all-around kind of player. She knows how to read her opponents. Her best shot is her forehand. But what she needs to work on probably is just having a little more self-confidence in herself. She gets down on herself easily."

Franca has also taken it upon herself to help out her new teammates.

"She does a good job helping with the other people on the team as far as working with them," Vargo said. "I remember a day, for instance, one of the girls had never played doubles before. Right away (Franca) started explaining things to them. She's a good team player."

The rest of the lineup will have the kind of athleticism other teams would be hard-pressed to match anywhere from the No. 2 position to No. 5.

"The rest of my players have that natural instinct, that natural athleticism, they have attitude," Vargo said.

Warder and Prack could win matches on talent and attitude alone. Hopefully, Vargo said, the accompanying skill will develop quickly.

"They win their matches because they have that killer instinct," Vargo said. "They will do whatever it takes not to lose. They will do anything to make up for their lack of tennis skills just by sheer talent alone."

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