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If Boyko's having fun, Cobras are dangerous

Billy Boyko won 15 consecutive matches last season to help Hudson clinch its first state tournament berth.

By STEVE LEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 9, 2001


HUDSON -- It took a few swings of the racket for Billy Boyko to warm up last year. But once he did, he never lost again until the state tournament.

This year, the Hudson senior's goal is to avoid an early letdown and go undefeated.

A victory or two at states wouldn't be bad either, he added.

As Hudson's No. 3 player last year, Boyko got off to an inauspicious start with three consecutive defeats. A pep talk from coach Ron Ladimir changed his season.

Ladimir, who doubles as Boyko's soccer coach, said the dual-sport athlete needed time to get the soccer team's regional playoff loss out of his system.

"After soccer was over he was a little disappointed," said Ladimir, adding that there was another factor. "He was bored. That's what he said."

"I guess I wasn't focused," Boyko said. "I guess I was rusty. Then I got mad at myself (for losing his first match) and it got worse."

Following the meeting with Ladimir, Boyko reeled off 15 singles wins. A loss in the first round of the state tournament resulted in a 15-4 singles mark.

Boyko also teamed with Mike Ventura to go 17-1 in No. 2 doubles. Only a loss at states prevented an unbeaten season for the Hudson partners.

Boyko's singles and doubles records were instrumental in Hudson capturing district and regional championships, as well as the first state berth in school history.

As the victories mounted last season, Boyko began to relax. Not one to nail the dramatic shot or make a highlight-reel return, his game centered on consistency. The more Boyko won, the more consistent he became.

Even in the biggest match of the season, Boyko was not fazed by pressure.

He and Ventura clinched the Class 2A, District 7 title for the Cobras by defeating Zephyrhills' Jim Hubbard and Timmy Carter in the decisive No. 2 doubles match.

"Last year, I didn't think I was going to win all those matches, so it made it easier," Boyko said. "I didn't get mad at myself as I wasn't expecting myself to be so great."

This year, Boyko teams up with fellow seniors (No. 1) Marcus Ressler and (No. 2) Mark Hofmeyer to make Hudson a favorite to repeat as district champions and contend for another regional crown.

But no matter the importance of a match or what title is up for grabs, Boyko is unlikely to make unforced errors due to pressure.

"I only play tennis for fun," he said. "I do it to stay active."

Boyko and Ressler have played soccer and tennis for the past three seasons, following in the footsteps of Ladimir, who also played both sports at Hudson.

The success Boyko has had in tennis makes the game more fun, he said, but soccer clearly is his sport of choice. Boyko also plays club soccer and hopes to continue kicking a ball in college.

Asked where that left tennis on his list of sports, Boyko's response was succinct: "Not very high."

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