By RODNEY PAGE
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 11, 2001
The message was sent loud and clear that Monday afternoon nearly two weeks ago. Countryside ended Seminole's girls' 148-match win streak in the Pinellas County Athletic Conference in a big way, 7-0.
The Cougars, who have only one senior, lost just nine games against the Warhawks, and five of the seven matches were won 8-0.
"We were all cognizant of the streak," Countryside coach John Williams said. "We talked before the match about how big of a match this was. And I think it says a lot that we won the match 7-0. It wasn't 4-3, and we barely won. If the streak was going to end, we wanted to leave no doubt about it."
There is no doubt. Countryside will be a factor not only in the PCAC, which it is a favorite to win, but also in the district, regional and, possibly, the state tournament.
The Cougars are not perfect. They lost to Clearwater early, but their top two players were playing a national junior tournament and were unavailable.
Junior Jennifer Dent once again is the Cougars' top player after advancing to the state tournament last season. Evangelina Soriano, a junior transfer from California, plays No. 2 and also is a state-ranked player. Both missed the Clearwater match.
Anastasiya Sokolova, a freshman from Russia, is another newcomer. She plays No. 3. Senior Jennifer Watts, who played No. 2 last season, plays No. 4 this season. Heather Frank rounds out the starting five.
Countryside is 6-1 entering Monday's home match against East Lake at the McMullen Tennis Center.
"I think there's a lot of potential on this team," Williams said. "And we're young."
The Countryside boys are doing even better, but they rely on experience. Four of their top five players are seniors, including No. 1 player Brian Lauer.
John Kenny, who plays No. 2, is the only junior in the starting five. Adam Rosoff plays No. 3, Serge Poncin plays No. 4 and Bret Schrayer plays No. 5.
Countryside is 7-0 but faces a big challenge against East Lake. The Eagles are 6-0 thanks to the one-two punch of Adel Nasser and Dmitry Bubis.
"I think each team feeds off each other," Williams said. "Nobody wants to be the first one to lose. They both want each other to do well."
LOOKING AHEAD: Monday should be a telling day for most girls and boys teams.
Tarpon Springs plays at Clearwater, East Lake plays at Countryside and Dunedin plays at Seminole. Those should be strong tests for all six teams.
Monday also is the midway point of the season. Palm Harbor University's girls team is 7-0 and leads the PCAC. Countryside's boys are 7-0, and East Lake's boys are 6-0.