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Young Wharton tennis team excels

The majority of the Wharton High school boys' tennis team is underclassmen. Yet the team managed to win the Western Conference championship and the Federal division of the conference.

By TERRY JONES

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 20, 2001


NEW TAMPA -- Young as they are, this year's boys' tennis team at Wharton High School could be described as awesome.

The top two players on the side, Konstantin Lazarov and Evan Dufaux, are freshmen. Number three, Greg Fischer, and number four, Neil Allman are juniors.

Paul Lefebvre, number five, and Evan Beck, the first alternate, are the only seniors. The other four backups, Tom Pusateri, Adam Carroll, Vikesh Khanijow and Franklin Castillo are all underclassmen.

Yet, the Wildcats won the Western Conference championship, the Federal division of the conference and placed second in the district tournament.

"This team demonstrated a lot of spirit this year and had a very successful season," Wharton boys tennis coach Marcie Scholl said. "Next year looks like it could be our best yet."

Bulgaria-born Lazarov, 15, is ranked in the top 80 for 18's in Florida by the USTA. He made it to the state tournament semifinals, before dropping his first match this season. Along the way he won both Western Conference and district championships. His team nick-named him Special K and recognized him as the Most Valuable Player.

In the conference tournament, DuFaux won the No. 2 singles and joined Lazarov to win the No. 1 doubles title. Because of a conflict in scheduling, he was in California during districts and missed that tournament.

Scholl says Fischer is strongest with quick feet and consistency in play. He won the No. 3 title in the conference meet and joined Lazarov on the No. 1 doubles team during DuFaux's absence.

Allman is especially skilled with his ground strokes and has a very strong left-handed serve, Scholl said. He won the conference singles championship for the No. 4 position.

Lefebvre, the school valedictorian, and Beck both played successful seasons and as the only seniors provided leadership as team captains.

Pusateri and Khanijow, both juniors, and Carroll, a sophomore, made each practice and game even though they had not worked into the lineup. They will train in the off-season to compete next spring.

Castillo, a sophomore, was injured but still attended the matches to support the Wildcats. Born in Venezuela, Castillo was ranked No. 4 for youth players in his country, when he moved to New Tampa recently. He trains at Palmer Tennis Academy.

Edit Kauszhecht, a 17-year-old junior exchange student from Hungary, and 15-year-old freshman Tampa Palms resident Brooke Oliver were the team managers. They made banners and baked cookies for the team for each match.

"We had 16 boys tryout for the team this year and we could only keep 10," Scholl said. "We work out at Hunter's Green. It has been great to coach this great group of young men who are highly skilled athletes."

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