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Dwyer doesn't lack ambition

As the only varsity returner for Zephyrhills, Courtney Dwyer is the unquestioned leader of the Bulldogs.

By JAMAL THALJI

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 9, 2001


ZEPHYRHILLS -- Courtney Dwyer has more than enough on her plate these days.

The tennis season is starting and Zephyrhills' No. 1 player is the only varsity returner. She wants to be the team's leader, which means she has new teammates to tutor and a new coach to guide.

She can't wait to get on the court and try out the new moves she has been honing in the off-season. She wants to earn an athletic scholarship.

She's also determined to defeat Wesley Chapel phenom and returning Sunshine Athletic Conference Player of the Year Cristina Lucin. Oh, and one more thing: Grades are her No. 1 goal this season. "Academics are really important to me," she said. "I have a 4.4 (grade point average)."

So much to do, and just one season to do it. But the senior is determined to do everything she can.

Starting with finally defeating Lucin, Pasco County's top player. Dwyer was 26-2 last season, and those lone losses were against Lucin, including one in the district finals.

"I'm really excited (about playing Lucin again)," Dwyer said. "I've wanted Cristina since I lost in the district, but I respect her a lot as a player.

"But I've decided not to look at her like a God-like player, to look at her as an opponent and an equal, and that on a good day I can beat her."

To defeat Lucin, Dwyer will have to use the new arsenal she has been working on.

"I'm definitely going to be a serve-and-volleyer this year," she said.

"Which is a new thing I've worked on. I have a variety of serves now, ranging from different speeds to different angles.

"Last year I was a very strong forehand player, I basically stayed with the ground stroke and my forehand was my biggest weapon, and I used it a lot. I stayed in the safety range and that would typically win 99 percent of my matches, until you get to play a Cristina. Then I have to serve and volley.

"Basically it's a skill you only see in college. I think it's definitely going to be surprising to a lot of top players this year. It's hard to play, especially in women's tennis."

Dwyer also has to help out her new teammates and her new coach, wrestling assistant coach Matt McDermott, who is already impressed with the No. 1 Bulldog. Then again, he'd have a hard time coaching the team without her.

"She's a pretty good player, and she works hard," McDermott said.

"She's got the grades; she's the one giving me all the books on tennis. I'll talk to her during the day, and she'll say what they need to work on in practice."

Perhaps the biggest adjustment for Dwyer and her teammates has been to McDermott's adherence to conditioning.

"In the off-season I got to running because I knew our coach would make us do that a lot," she said. "We're definitely going to be in good shape. That's Coach McDermott, all he does is make us run."

McDermott treats his tennis players like his wrestlers.

"I don't think they're used to the running I make them do," he said.

"I make them run laps around the tennis court and they're ready to die.

"I don't call it running laps. I call it conditioning. I had an old man tell me once half of tennis is getting to the ball, and if you can get there, you can take care of the rest."

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