The Pinellas Heat Elite's 17 volleyball team has had plenty of success playing in tournaments around Florida. But the team, which is based at Clearwater's Long Center, hadn't been tested on the national level.
That changed April 23-25 when the team traveled to Minneapolis for the Northern Lights Qualifier. They were ranked an unimpressive 32nd out of 74 teams in the field. But after the first two days of pool play, in which the team lost only one set out of 13, the Heat vaulted to No. 9 for the single-elimination round of 16 teams.
After a 2-0 win to advance to the final eight, the Heat rattled off three straight three-set wins over highly-ranked national teams to win the tournament. With the victory, the team received a bid to the USA Volleyball Junior Olympic Championships in Reno in June.
"I knew we had the talent to win, but you never know until you get up there,'' coach Andrew Wilson said. "We have several big, talented players. But we also have some players who are new to the club thing and haven't really been through something like this. They came through for us as well.''
The Heat won a total of 10 matches during the three-day tournament. They had little time to do anything but play volleyball. There were three straight matches in the afternoon on the first day, and three more the next morning. But they did find time to tour the Mall of America.
"It was pretty much volleyball the whole time,'' Wilson said. "But when you're talking about 17-year-old girls, that's probably not a bad thing.''
The team practices twice weekly at the Long Center. There are only three players who were with the team last year: Katie Hogan of Berkeley Prep, Jenna Kirkwood of Seminole and Kahley Patrick of Clearwater. The newcomers are Natalia Ortiz (Steinbrenner High), Carrieshea Showalter (Palm Harbor University), Jennica Mullins (Northside Christian), Nicole Higgins (Brandon), Andrea Ezell (Pinellas Park) and Lindsey Watson (Brandon).
The first annual Dunedin City tournament was held May 1-2 at the Dunedin Tennis Center. The men's 20 winner was Drew Holsapple, the 40 winner Frank Whitney, and the 50 winner Ali Amidimehr.
The men's open doubles was won by Peter Sierchio and Chester Claudon. The men's 70 doubles was won by Howard Woodbury and Joe Rauch. The men's 50 doubles was won by John Cuerva and Rob Shaw, and women's doubles by Judy Gardt and Jody Cannon.
• The Seminole Lake Local Challenge was held on May 1-3. The boys 18 singles winner was David Teytelbaum, the 16 winner was Arthur Dobradin, the 14 winner was Dan Stefan and the 10 winner was Christopher Reilly. The girls 18 singles winner was Amy Lowther, the 16 winner was Jabilayh Asante, the 14 winner was Isabella Krupa and the 12 winner was Daniela Bellini.
• Recently the Largo Tennis Center participated in the USTA Florida Junior Team Sectional Tennis Championships in Altamonte Springs. Largo came in first in their flight and third overall in the state due to the amount of games won. Team members are Paul Shimkonis, Praksh Pudkutode, Jake Szeszko, Mlind Mishra, Sasha Desilva, Haley Shimkonis, Lauren Adams and Taylor Cook.
The County Golf Association's better-ball tournament was held on May 3 at Bardmoor Country Club. The regular-division gross champions were Sean Martin and Joe Lallier. The senior division gross champs were John King and Jim Shepherd. The overall net winners were Bill Laurich and Denis LaVigne. The ladies net champs were Janet Richey and Bette Adams.
• The 2010 Founders Trophy tournament was held at Cypress Run Country Club in Tarpon Springs. The overall gross champion was Ron Salhany, who shot 168. The overall net champion was Bill Follit, who shot 146.
The Florida State Junior Championship was held April 24 with 12-year-old Megan Polski of Largo winning the girls championship. She also pitched against the boys, finishing second with a 4-2 record.
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