Times' all-Hillsborough County tennis teams



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Sat. May 21, 2011 | Eduardo A. Encina

Player of the Year

Ben Hwang, Wharton, Sr.

Why we picked him: After playing at No. 2 singles the past two years, Hwang became Wharton’s No. 1 and put together a marvelous senior season. He won the Class 4A team tournament title and the overall singles crown. Aside from losing his first match in the season opener against George Jenkins, he was unbeaten and wrapped up his prep career with two comeback wins in both title matches. He became the third Wharton player in as many years to claim and overall singles title (current UF freshman Mike Alford won the past two seasons).

Most impressive accomplishment: At the state tournament he was resilient. In the overall singles title match, he trailed 5-1 in the third set and fought off three match points to beat Park Vista’s Gaston Murray in a third-set tiebreak 6-7 (4-7), 6-1, 7-6 (8-6). The day before in the team No. 1 singles final, he overcame three set points, trailing 5-4 in the first set to beat Miami Palmetto’s Jovan Parlic to win 7-5, 6-3. “I think it had to be states,” Hwang said when asked his most impressive accomplishment, “because of how close every match was and how it could have gone either way. I felt really that my hard work paid off then. My dedication paid off.”

Did you know? Hwang has earned straight As through high school, compiling a 4.0 unweighted and 5.96 weighted grade-point average. He also scored a 1390 (out of a possible 1500) on the SAT, missing just one question on the math portion. This semester he took three AP courses (biology, calculus and literature). The last time he got a B? “I don’t even remember.”

Future plans: Hwang will attend Johns Hopkins, where he will have the chance to start as a freshman while studying pre-med. His father is a dentist and his mother a nurse.

First team
Eric Fitz-Randolph, Carrollwood Day, So: Class A-8 No. 1 singles district champ advanced to individual quarterfinals at state.

Brian Kowalski, Hillsborough, Sr.: Team leader claimed 3A team No. 2 singles crown at state; will play collegiately at Emory

Jack Murphy, Hillsborough, Jr.: Moved up from No. 2 last season; claimed 3A-8 district singles title.

Rohit Navelkar, Wharton, Sr.: No. 2 has played past four seasons; advanced to team semis at 4A state meet.

Jamie Sullivan, Jesuit, Jr.: 2A-10 No. 1 singles champ at districts guided young Tigers back to state.

Second team
Brenton D’Adamo, Plant, Sr.

Harrison Heysek, Plant City, So.

Tristan Kaye, Plant, Jr.

Kiril Kirkov, King, So.

Jordan Nasser, Jesuit, So.

Honorable mention
Hillsborough: Will Clarke, Greg Hasegawa, Akash Adhia; Jesuit: David Pagliarulo, T.R. Bopp, Ryan Walden; King: Victor Ke, Hari Asokkumar, Chiran Witanachchi, Eric Li; Newsome: Colin Edwards; Plant: Mike Secular, Alec Josepher, Schuler Welch; Plant City: Spencer Heysek, Max Girling, Justin Keel, Trent Lott; Steinbrenner: Luke Blankenship; Tampa Prep: Patrick Stewart, Alan Williams, Ralph Grauer, Wes Merritt, Daniel Palmer; Wharton: Sam Chaffin, Alek Crnogorak, Taylor Young

Coach of the year
Glenn Alvarez, Wharton
The ex-Tampa Bay Tech coach had a wealth of talent at his disposal, but still had to rebuild the lineup for a team that lost its coach and No. 1 player.

Player of the Year

Blair Martin, Plant, So.

Why we picked her: Martin was the top player facing the toughest competition on the state’s best Class 4A team. Martin followed up a state team title at No. 2 singles last season with a nearly flawless 2011 outing, making the jump to No. 1 singles. She entered the state tournament with a 12-0 record, and despite losing her first-round match, was a key part of the Panthers’ second-day charge from last place to winning their second team title in three years. She teamed with senior Carol Marie Fraley to win the No. 1 doubles title, which clinched a share of the state crown.

Most impressive accomplishment: Martin said helping the Panthers to the state title was her proudest moment. “It was definitely rewarding,” she said. Plant lost four of five first-round singles matches, and needed to win both doubles titles to have a shot at state gold. “I don’t think anybody thought it was possible to win it,” Martin said. “We were aiming for maybe third place. We were pretty bummed out.” Martin and Fraley’s three-set doubles semifinal win over Dr. Krop (6-4, 1-6, 6-2), which was going for its sixth straight team title, was arguably the most important win of the run.

Did you know? Martin played softball for eight years, and was a member of the Palma Ceia team that placed fifth in the Junior Softball Little League World Series in Kirkland, Wash., three years ago. Martin — who played pitcher, catcher, second base and third base — gave up softball to concentrate on tennis. “I realized that tennis I could play forever,” she said. “And I thought it was more fun. I loved (softball), but after we went to the World Series, I figured I’d just end my career there.”

Future plans: Martin just turned 16 last month, so she has plenty of tennis ahead of her. Currently ranked No. 3 in Florida in 16s and top 50 nationally, she’d like to improve on those rankings this summer. It’s still early but she would like to attend school in the south. North Carolina, Duke, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Auburn are among her favorites.

First team
Jacque Fitz-Randolph, Carrollwood Day, 8th: No. 1 was also half of doubles team that advanced to Class A individual finals.

Natalie Franklin, Plant, Jr.: Most decorated Panther won three gold medals at state, including No. 4 singles crown.

Grace Korta, Steinbrenner, Fr.: 2A-10 district champ in singles and doubles advanced to the state individual singles semifinals.

Nicole Mera, Chamberlain, Sr.: Advanced to the 3A individual state tournament in singles and doubles.

Bianca Roberts, Academy of the Holy Names, Sr.: A-8 No. 1 singles district champion guided a young Jags team back to state.

Second team
Rachael Adler, King, So.

Carol Marie Fraley, Plant, Sr.

Claire Mitchell Andrews, Plant, Jr.

Manash Ramanathan, Hillsborough, So.

Kaleigh Wagner, Steinbrenner, Sr.

Honorable mention
Academy of the Holy Names: Caroline Lozo, Paige Leavy, Christine Holcomb, Sarah Port; Carrollwood Day: Lauren Fitz-Randolph; Chamberlain: Lili Na’daslaki; Hillsborough: Amanda Glenz, Jayash Ramanathan, Alexis Deriberprey, Suvetha Ravichandran; Plant: Julia Rodriguez; Steinbrenner: Tatum Brannan, Taylor Brannan, Carli Schwartz

Coach of the year
Jacquelyn Rosen, Plant
The former teen pro tennis phenom made the most of her first high school coaching opportunity, guiding the Panthers to their third state team title in four years, coming back from a last-place first-day showing to claim state gold.

Note: Honorable mentions include players from all teams that either advanced to states, were district champions or advanced to the region finals, along with select state qualifiers and No. 1 singles players.


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