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Rematch goes down drain

By CAAREY FREEMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 1, 2001


INVERNESS -- Citrus coach Doug Patton is quickly learning what all or most tennis players know: Rain is the bane of the player's existence.

It seems it is for coaches too.

Patton and his Hurricanes were looking forward to Thursday's rematch with Hernando when the rain came and canceled the dual. Unfortunately for Citrus, there isn't enough time left in the season for a make-up date.

So why are Patton and his players so miffed? Look no farther than a March 6 loss to the Leopards, whose 4-3 victory has stuck in the Hurricanes' craw. "I think we might have overestimated our abilities and took them for granted," Patton said. "We didn't play our best match that day."

Citrus thinks things would have been different the second time around, thanks to its steady improvement throughout the season.

Patton has seen progress throughout his lineup, from No. 1 Irvin MacQuarrie to No. 5 Dave Peleshock to the two doubles teams. The brightest spot, however, has been the play of freshman Bret Feldman, who is undefeated at No. 3 singles, including two three-set decisions over talented Lecanto freshman Avash Rao.

"I'm real pleased with what he's done," Patton said. "He's had two matches go three sets and, being young, he does have his ups and downs. But he knows what he needs to do and he always gets down to it eventually. Plus, he's not intimidated by anyone."

Another positive has been the play of Peleshock. An avid hockey player, Peleshock's competitive drive has helped make him one of the area's most successful No. 5 seeds.

"He's really come on," Patton said. "When we started the season, he was decent, but nowhere near where he is now. He's really picked up on the mental game."

WORK IN PROGRESS: Dick Tangeman knew his Crystal River team would be a work in progress, but even he has been surprised a bit by the level of that progress.

Though the Pirates have yet to score a win over Citrus or Lecanto, they have managed to improve and hold their own with the rest of the area's competition.

"Oh yeah, I'm real proud," Tangeman said. "We had a lot of developmental stuff to do, especially when you consider the fact that we don't have the country club tennis players a lot of the other schools do. I think we've made giant strides in terms of technique."

Unlike the Hurricanes and Panthers, who have a number of full-time players, Crystal River has had to groom stars from other sports into competitive tennis players. Among those are football player John Wang and swimmer Mason Cummings, who have battled back and forth all year at No. 1 singles.

Tangeman thinks his team could play the role of wild-card in the district tournament.

"It's different and something happens when you have the whole day," Tangeman said. "It's apparent how strong Lecanto is, but don't be surprised if we get into the mix. I think we can cause some people trouble."

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