By CAREY FREEMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 20, 2001
INVERNESS -- Who would've thought that the combination of a budding tennis phenom and an established hockey star could have such devastating effects?
Lecanto surly didn't.
Yet Citrus coach Doug Patton always had a hunch about Bret Feldman and Dave Peleshok. That hunch played out nicely for the Hurricanes as Feldman and Peleshok scored the decisive victory at No. 2 doubles in leading Citrus to its third consecutive district title.
"I had thought about doing little earlier, and I wanted to play them in our second match against Lecanto (a 6-1 Panthers win)," Patton said. "But Dave hurt his elbow and we weren't able to do it then. I wanted to find a combination that worked well together, and they've turned out to be a nice combination."
Feldman and Peleshok, who will again be pivotal figures when Citrus plays host to Hudson in today's 3 p.m. Class 2A regional championship, are kind of like oil and vinegar. Though they don't appear to mesh on the surface, the combination provides an almost perfect balance of flavors.
Feldman, who has played competitively since age 5, is the more consistent of the two and provides the perfect counter to Peleshok's pure athleticism and solid net play. Feldman can run down and return most shots. Peleshok, who plays club hockey for the Tampa Bay Mustangs, is a net dominator. The team needed a win over Crystal River's Tony Domingo and Chad deMontfort in Tuesday's final to secure the championship and prevent a dual match tie-breaker with Lecanto on Wednesday. Feldman and Peleshok sprinted to a 5-2 lead in the first set but dropped the next three games to keep things interesting.
"We just started to fall apart," Feldman said. "The whole Lecanto team was cheering on Crystal River and talking a lot of smack. We really wanted to win so we could make Lecanto eat their words."
Feldman and Peleshok rebounded quickly for a 7-5 first-set victory, then overpowered the Crystal River duo 6-3 in the second set to clinch a one-point win.
However, as emotional as that was, it wouldn't have been possible had the two not scored equally crucial singles victories.
DOGS NO MORE: It has taken Lecanto all of one season to go from the role of underdog to favorite in the Class 2A region championships. Thanks to a little redrawing by the FHSAA, the Panthers will play host to Central, a team they've defeated twice, at 4 p.m. for the right to compete in next week's state championships.
Lecanto last season had to travel to established power Orlando Bishop Moore, where it scored an unlikely upset of the Hornets. Helping matters even more is the questionable status of Central standout Jane McDonald, who's suffering from an injured ankle.
"If everyone plays to their potential, we should be fine," Panthers coach Joan Roberts said. "If not, and (Central) is playing above their usual level, we'll have trouble."