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If Shorecrest’s boys tennis team was looking for a good sign before heading into next week’s Class A-9 district tournament, it came Wednesday at the St. Pete Tennis Center.
Playing at full strength for one of the few times all season, the Chargers beat Tampa Prep 5-2.
That’s encouraging for a team that already has high expectations. Shorecrest finished a program-best second in the state last season.
Despite losing top player Garrett Betsarakis, the Chargers are still experienced and talented.
Nick Litsky, Brendan East, Alex Saltiel and Logan Elder were all a big part of last year’s team. Throw in eighth grader Peter Litsky, and the Chargers appear to have what it takes to make another run.
“We are really looking forward to districts,’’ Nick Litsky said after a match earlier this season against Clearwater Central Catholic. “That’s when we start taking it seriously. I think we have a pretty good team.’’
Shorecrest’s (15-1) lone loss came against Class 2A Jesuit. The Chargers have had to play most of the season without Saltiel, an accomplished junior player who has been out with various injuries.
Saltiel, a Times’ first-team all-county selection last year, has played in only a handful of matches this season. But he did return for the Tampa Prep match, winning at No. 2 singles. According to first-year coach Kiki Flynn, Saltiel is ready for districts.
“It makes us a tough team,’’ Flynn said.
The one steady throughout the season has been the Litsky brothers. Nick has played No. 1 singles throughout the season and Peter has been solid at No. 2 or 3. They have also been paired in doubles, though Nick will likely team with Saltiel at No. 1.
“Nick and Pete have really stepped it up,’’ Flynn said. “They’ve really competed hard. They’ve won some big matches for us.’’
Shorecrest is considered the district favorite when play starts Monday at Sarasota Out-of-Door Academy. Things get tougher in regionals and at state, and Tampa Prep could loom again down the road.
Obviously, the only way to improve on last year’s finish is to win the state championship. That’s the unspoken goal of this year’s team.
“They’ve been in these situations before,’’ Flynn said. “I try not to say much to them about it. They put enough pressure on themselves. I’m there to encourage them.’’
Played over two days
When/where: 8 a.m. Tuesday, McMullen Tennis Complex
Teams: Clearwater, Countryside, East Lake, Palm Harbor University, Pinellas Park
When/where: 9 a.m. Monday, King Middle School (Bradenton)
Teams: Bradenton Manatee, North Port, Sarasota Riverview, Seminole, St. Petersburg
When/where: 8:30 a.m. Monday, Royal Racquet Club
Teams: Boca Ciega, Dixie Hollins, Gibbs, Largo, Northeast, Osceola, Tarpon Springs
When/where: 9 a.m. Monday, Hillsborough Community College
Teams: Blake, Dunedin, Holy Names, Jesuit, Lakewood, Lennard, Middleton, Robinson, Spoto, Tampa Catholic
When/where: 9 a.m. Monday, Sarasota Out-of-Door
Teams: Admiral Farragut, Calvary Christian, Canterbury, Sarasota Cardinal Mooney, Clearwater Central Catholic, Indian Rocks Christian, Northside Christian, Sarasota Out-of-Door, Shorecrest, St. Petersburg Catholic, Bradenton St. Stephen’s